Who's afraid of the big bad MOOC?
Inevitably, some surveyed the huge scalability and openness of massive open courses and saw they were ripe for exploitation. Up popped a number of edu-businesses such as Coursera, Udacity and EdX, all of which promised dynamic and scalable platforms from which any university could launch its MOOC, and gain huge numbers of students overnight. xMOOCs have been around for only a short while in their current form, but have already attracted criticism and received some bad press. Coursera for example came under fire for its problematic approach to peer assessment, whilst others were criticised for dumbing down learning through for example their use of automated assessment and delivery of homogenised content. Regardless of these detractions, several universities have bought into the vision and have launched their own versions. Yet many universities remain sceptical about the sustainability and relevancy of MOOCs. Others are standing on the sidelines watching to see what will happen next.
Writing in the Thursday March 7 edition of the International Herald Tribune, Thomas Friedman issues a stark warning to all traditional universities about MOOCs, focused on improving pedagogy. Universities must change, he says, from a 'time served' model to a 'stuff learned' model. He reasons that 'increasingly the world does not care what you know. Everything is on Google. The world only cares, and will only pay for, what you can do with what you know'. Friedman points out, quite rightly, that the world of work is now competency based, and respects less and less the academic qualifications job candidates place on their CVs. He pours further fuel on the fire by pointing out that the world of MOOCs is 'creating a competition that will force every professor to improve his or her pedagogy or face an online competitor.' Whilst this would be a good thing for universities (why would anyone not want to improve their professional practice?) many are less convinced that MOOCs will provoke such a dichotomy of educational choice. Clearly Friedman has a point, but many remain sceptical, asking questions such as: How many courses can actually be fully and convincingly delivered in MOOC format, with no denigration of quality of learning experience? How in the long term can quality be assured in the delivery of MOOCs? What about authenticity (are the learners who they say they are?) and what about assessment of such a large number of students - how can this be achieved reliably (remember the Coursera fiasco). And how many universities are actually threatened by MOOCs anyway?
Photo by Steve Wheeler
Who's afraid of the big bad MOOC? by Steve Wheeler is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.