William Hammond at Public Service Europe offers some reflections on MOOCs that are worth pondering. Here are his main points (in italics) followed by my comments:
1. MOOC platforms have now grown sufficiently in size and influence to have caught the attention of policy makers.
This trend indicates that we may start to see some regulation or standardization of the use of MOOC certificates. Policy makers and administrative leaders hate uncertainty. They already feel the need to end MOOC mania. We may already be seeing the beginning of the end of wild experimentation and wild speculation about the place of MOOCs in the higher education landscape.
2. MOOCS are regressing to older and arguably outmoded structural designs. The first MOOCs were guided by connectivist and constructivist principles; experienced scholars provided overall structures but much of the course content was then generated by the learners themselves, using sophisticated digital tools and web 2.0 software applications. These so-called "c-MOOCs" were organized learning communities. But the new MOOCs that have gained so much attention have reverted to the broadcast model using materials - lectures, videos, texts - from existing courses to achieve pre-determined learning goals.
Despite the presumed values and habits and networking capabilities of the so-called net generation, these new so-called "x-MOOCs" still look like "real" courses from "real" colleges. The take-away is that the big MOOC platforms like edX and Coursera, despite their professed interest in improving educational methods, may actually be setting back the shift to an open connectivist and constructivist teaching-learning paradigm.
3. Many participants in large platform MOOCs are highly educated people including those possessing advanced degrees. The popularity of MOOCs may reflect the growing demand for low-cost/no-cost cutting edge learning in today's knowledge economies.
This demographic fact may reflect an important shift from front-loaded higher education for standard professional 'qualification' to on-going or life-long education for ever-shifting narrowly defined occupational niche identities.
4. Employers may now be starting to pay attention to MOOCs as qualifications.
Employers may now find that a package of MOOCs in cutting edge areas of knowledge and skill tells them more about whether a job applicant can perform a narrowly defined work task than a diploma. Diplomas represent a standard level of general professional knowledge but say nothing about specific cutting edge capabilities.
5. Prospects for the long term impact of MOOCs depend on whether universities will accept MOOC certificates for credit and thus reduce the overall cost of earning a degree.
Here I must respectfully disagree. Regardless of how universities adjust, it is inevitable that organizations will emerge to aggregate MOOCs into packages that can stand as diploma equivalents or have some comparable meaning to employers. ACE, an organization that certifies courses as credit-worthy, has already certified several MOOCs as worthy of college credit, so the main problem will not be MOOC quality. MOOCs will be sustainable to the extent that employers recognize them as qualifications, and they will do so to the extent that using MOOCs as filters lowers their transaction (search, assessment and training) costs. College diplomas served this function in the age of slowly changing professional knowledge workers. MOOCs may play a similar or parallel role in the age of rapidly shifting tasks requiring rapidly up-graded capabilities.
How do you see these trends? Please add your comments below.