MOOC obsession hits fever pitch

It’s impossible to miss the hot topic in education these days, on the MOOCs –the awful acronym for a fascinating innovation in education known as Massive Open Online Courses.

Massive, in term of how they scale into not just tens of thousands, but millions.

Now that Thomas Friedman has weighed in, its official. The MOOC epidemic is more cause of a state of emergency than the flu virus. However, the contra argument is also worth thinking through: that the political economy of MOOCs is too quick to hail it as the next best thing.

  • I am more interested in how a new generation of tech-ed entrepreneurs (small-scale ones) might hack the model beyond Higher Ed –for introductory classes, and after-school programs, say.
  • I see the value of the MOOC model in its openness, not scale. I like the fact that students use the platform to create their own conversations, and local support to weaker students following the class. Friedman cites this one, and there are plenty of these floating around.

“Agarwal of edX tells of a student in Cairo who was taking the circuits course and was having difficulty. In the class’s online forum, where students help each other with homework, he posted that he was dropping out. In response, other students in Cairo in the same class invited him to meet at a teahouse, where they offered to help him stay in the course.”

That these students feel empowered to move their ‘class’ offline (the tea house in this case), speaks to how much the traditional sage-on-stage model is waiting to be tweaked.

When students don’t need to raise their hand and wait until the instructor notices, when conversations in the class could be switched on, not off, that’s where the learning revolution might lie.


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