After almost a year of reading about MOOCs I am starting to formulate an idea of how MOOCs should develop and become entrenched as institutions in society. I am calling my plan MOOC+.
Some of the problems that need to be addressed:
(1) Preparation. 'average' students do not have the best academic orientations or tradeskills to adjust well to online learning. I have been discussing this problem with Laura Joplin (who happens to be Janis's sister) - she has been working on a fix that involves a F2F intervention of perhaps a semester in length. Call this what you want;, "An Introduction to Academic Life, " or Practical Epistemology," or "Academic Tradeskill 101," the idea is to assist learners to figure out what they want out of further education, what they can expect from it, and how it all works.
(2) Cost. Tuitions have risen exponentially and students are paying for all of the wet dreams of administrators and donors for more, and more expensive, facilities, and thus taking on crippling debt. Meanwhile the ACE is certifying the academic quality of many MOOCs. This process needs to be accelerated. We need to identify a core of about 500 free courses or more that can pass muster as free academic course equivalents.
(3) Accreditation. No mainstream university will offer all MOOC undergrad degrees along with their traditional programs, as this would introduce channel conflict (the cheaper channel will cut into the revenues from the more expensive one). But states, or consortia of states, will no doubt go this route, and seek (and obtain) alternative certifications, just as have University of Phoenix, Western Governors University, and others.
(4) Mentoring and Tutoring. Students will need personalized assistance with learning, and with forging life plans and adjusting their educational programs to their occupational aims. They will also need personalized tutoring in completing MOOCs, as most MOOCs seem to have units or specific learning points along the way where the learning curve steepens and leaves many behind. The MOOC+ model will charge a small fee (perhaps $200 per course, paid by the learner or through a state subsidy) to cover the administrative and personnel costs associated with mentoring, tutoring, and associated book-keeping.
(5) Facilities. Boston has partnered with edX to build out 'BostonX' - an institution to support MOOC learning. The city will provide some physical infrastructure - places to use computers, get help, meet and discuss with other MOOC learners. This is like an extension of the contemporary library, with its computers, reference materials, research librarians and meeting rooms.
(6) Qualifications. Coursera is already operating an employment agency linking MOOC completers to work opportunities. Firms pay Coursera for access to the successful MOOC students. An association of firms in Silicon Valley is already working out arrangements to accept aggregations of MOOCs in lieu of diplomas in hiring and promotion. These efforts need to be somewhat more institutionalized, so that each firm doesn't have to reinvent the wheel. I would like to see the idea of diploma equivalence worked into state law, along with mandates preventing firms from discriminating against MOOC equivalency 'diplomas'. If states build out MOOC+ agencies, they can also facilitate the school to work transitions of MOOC 'graduates' through such legal and institutional means.
Such programs would not offer everything a college education offers, but would be very affordable, and more than competitive in forging links to workplaces- which is what most students and families want. And with the rapid pace of MOOC innovation, compared to the snail's pace of university innovation, MOOC+ programs could be far more flexible and adaptive than traditional colleges and universities in adjusting learning opportunities to workplace needs.
So in brief, MOOC+ = An in-person preparatory program + ACE approved MOOCs + Mentoring and Tutoring + Credit for MOOCs + CityX dedicated meeting and studying spaces + MOOC to Work programs + Recognition of MOOC-based diploma equivalency.