MOOCs – An Educational Elixir or Cheap Distribution Redefined?

MoocsSmallIn a recent crystal-ball-classic, Thomas Friedman predicts that a big part of the future of education is in MOOCs – Massively Open Online Courses. Friedman bases his opinion on a two day M.I.T. and Harvard sponsored conference on “Online Learning and the Future of Residential Education”. Let’s take a closer look.

For a prerequisite, we’ll grab our definition from the game changing MOOE (Massively Open Online Encyclopedia), Wikipedia:

A MOOC is an online course aiming at large-scale participation and open access via the web…Only about 10% of the tens of thousands of students who may sign up complete the course.

Friedman’s takeaways from the conference were: a need to move towards not-yet-defined competency assessments for teachers and students; blending video lectures with teacher-led classroom discussions often makes sense; online courses will force professors to improve or be replaced by a MOOC; and when outstanding becomes so easily available, average is finished.

The main flaw in Friedman’s article is that there’s a big difference between a MOOC and, what we call, a MOOOC (Massively Open Outstanding Online Course). Putting a professor’s no-better-than-average lecture openly online phentermine does not make it outstanding, or even good for that matter.

We think that the key takeaway from MOOCs is that in a post-YouTube world, delivering instructional material inexpensively to millions is not just within the hands of universities, publishers and media companies. That’s a potential game changer, but unless we improve the heart of education — curriculum, instruction and learning assessment, we won’t deliver on the promise of a massively smarter and better educated world.