In order to understand where MOOCs are heading (at least taking a stab at guessing their future), it’s important to know what the stated goals are. In case you’re still new to MOOCs, here’s a helpful rundown of the guiding principles behind MOOCs:
- Aggregation. The whole point of a connectivist MOOC is to provide a starting point for a massive amount of content to be produced in different places online, which is later aggregated as a newsletter or a web page accessible to participants on a regular basis. This is in contrast to traditional courses, where the content is prepared ahead of time.
- The second principle is remixing, that is, associating materials created within the course with each other and with materials elsewhere.
- Re-purposing of aggregated and remixed materials to suit the goals of each participant.
- Feeding forward, sharing of re-purposed ideas and content with other participants and the rest of the world.
An earlier list (2005) of Connectivist principles from Siemens also informs the pedagogy behind MOOCs:
- Learning and knowledge rest in diversity of opinions.
- Learning is a process of connecting specialised nodes or information sources.
- Learning may reside in non-human appliances.
- Capacity to know more is more critical than what is currently known.
- Nurturing and maintaining connections is needed to facilitate continual learning.
- Ability to see connections between fields, ideas, and concepts is a core skill.
- Currency (accurate, up-to-date knowledge) is the intent of all connectivist learning activities.
- Decision making is itself a learning process. Choosing what to learn and the meaning of incoming information is seen through the lens of a shifting reality. While there is a right answer now, it may be wrong tomorrow due to alterations in the information climate affecting the decision.
5 Potential Ways MOOCs Will Evolve
Now that you’re a MOOCs expert, let’s examine where they could lead. Below are just a handful of potential directions MOOCs could take in the coming 2-4 years. However, due to the ever-changing landscape of education technology, I wouldn’t be surprised if none of these possibilities actually happened and instead we’re left with a wonderful, albeit unpredictable, world of MOOCs.
1) Most Likely: More Startups, More Schools Offer MOOCs
If we continue along at the current rate of adoption and usage, it won’t be surprising to see a slew of startups jumping into the MOOCs space. After all, users will need MOOC tutors, MOOC hardware, perhaps even MOOC meeting space. Wait, wouldn’t that just be a classroom?
2) Sorta Likely: Many Schools Join edX & Similar Alliances, Large Companies Try To Make Money Off MOOCs
In order to ramp up their online course offerings, look for smaller schools to team up with alliances like edX rather than build their own software from scratch. edX has a track record, albeit brief, of partnership and open access. Perfect for a smaller school without a big technology budget. Look for online schools to perhaps form a similar partnership so they can offer MOOCs. The online schools version would likely be powered by a third-party like Udacity or Coursera. Meanwhile, large tech companies and startups alike work to carve out their own niche in the MOOCs landscape. There’s a lot of money to be had in the transition of education so don’t be surprised if this happens no matter what the future holds for MOOCs.
3) Less Likely: Schools Big & Small Offer MOOCs Exclusively, MOOCs Lose Momentum Due To Fractured Offerings
In an effort to effectively monetize MOOCs, schools of all shapes and sizes begin offering their own courses on their own systems. They build the software and tools using the open source offerings currently available and turn the entire process into a school-based process rather than a learning-based process. This would likely lead to extreme fracturing of the MOOC industry and cause many students to get frustrated they can’t take a series of courses like at edX. For example, with edX you can take a series of courses on engineering that involves professors from Berkeley, Harvard, and MIT. With a more proprietary approach, you could only take a series of courses laid out by the individual school or company. Essentially the old-fashioned approach to a new technology. I wish I could say this would never happen.
4) Not Likely: Companies Run All MOOCs, Schools Pay Them To Do So
Google, Apple, and the other tech titans have a lot to gain from teaching the masses. They can monitor classes and even offer jobs to the best performing students. What better way to recruit than to have all the data of several years right in front of you and owned by you? But it wouldn’t be just the major tech companies getting in on the MOOCs fun; recruiting agencies, marketing firms, and anyone who wants to have measurable data of a massive audience would likely start offering MOOCs. These courses would not likely be anything leading to a degree but, as we’ve seen, that’s not the main goal of MOOCs yet. In an effort to compete with the big bucks thrown around by the tech companies, many schools would likely latch onto companies like Google and use them to offer MOOCs of their own. This would be done instead of choosing to collaborate with places like edX.
5) Not In This Lifetime: Schools Close Campuses And Go 100% Online
While unlikely to happen in the near future, it should come as no surprise that the potential future of brick and mortar school campuses is bleak. MOOCs have the potential to change the entire education system. While it’s great to see Harvard, MIT, and the other heavy hitters throw their weight behind MOOCs, there’s still a long way to go. The gravitas that comes from having a physical location, the benefits of making personal connections, and basically being able to become adequately socialized are still crucial to the development of any student. However, MOOCs could change all that sooner than you think.
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