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Sir John Daniel on Making Sense of MOOCs

Submitted by on November 1, 2012 – 4:07 pmOne Comment

  • Sir John Daniel, an authority on the subject, has published an Academic Partnerships whitepaper entitled “Making Sense of MOOCs: Musings in a Maze of Myth, Paradox and Possibility”.
  • Citing research, Daniel details the history of MOOCs and clarifies what is known and what is misunderstood about this emerging trend in education.
  • Daniel offers a realistic look at the road ahead as the role of MOOCs inevitably grows.

Sir John Daniel, author of Making Sense of MOOCs: Musings in a Maze of Myth, Paradox and Possibility

Sir John Daniel is one of the world’s most well-known leaders in open and distance learning. He believes strongly in the potential for MOOCs to ultimately “oblige institutions to do more than pay lip service to the importance of teaching and put it at the core of their missions.” In this whitepaper, Daniel cites research to provide a sober analysis of the history, issues, myths, paradoxes, and realistic possibilities of MOOCs.

You can download the full report, but here are a few highlights of what you’ll find:

Learn about the…

  • Evolution of MOOC pedagogy
  • Early history, key institutions involved, and lessons learned
  • 8 feasible business models for monetizing MOOCs
  • Potential impact on lowering the cost of higher education in the US

Understand the paradoxes and myths:

  • The university brand as a surrogate for teaching quality
  • Selective admissions as a contributor to higher quality education
  • The utility of course completion percentage as a gauge of success
  • MOOCs as a solution to accessibility of education in the developing world

Imagine tomorrow’s possibilities:

  • Better and more varied teaching – particularly through the use of OER – than individual instructors could do by themselves
  • A sharper focus on teaching and pedagogy, intellectual quality, and academic rigor
  • A world in which more distinctive university missions outweigh external status

As Daniel says, “… the real revolution is that universities with scarcity at the heart of their business models are embracing openness.” Indeed, MOOCs are here to stay.

If you haven’t already, please bookmark Faculty eCommons, and we’ll make it our mission to keep you on the leading edge of all innovations in higher education.

One Comment »

  • Becky Kinney says:

    This is a very interesting paper, which probably deserves a more careful read than I had time for this afternoon.

    The big picture phenomenon of freely available information has of course been around since the first public library opened its doors. Now that we have the web to simultaneously increase access and decrease quality control, are we better off or worse? xMoocs backed by prestigious universities lend at least a semblance of credibility to the learning that takes place within them, but bottom line, it still adds up to people acquiring knowledge on their own, and then struggling to find ways to validate that learning for potential employers and the world at large.

    It seems to me that the challenge for brick-and-mortar schools is to figure out what their mission is. For-credit institutions, regardless of delivery method, serve as a kind of initiation rite for people seeking certain types of employment. It’s not so much what you know, as what you had to endure to get that professional stamp of approval. People with degrees have proven that they can meet deadlines, knuckle under to authority, and finish what they have started.

    So, what then is the purpose of face-to-face for-credit institutions? I think it is to provide students with extra help in terms of all of the above. Students who would drop out of a MOOC are more likely to finish a course at a brick-and-mortar institution because of in-person contact with other human beings who are doing the same. Peer pressure helps them overcome their own sloth. Paying big bucks for the experience is another powerful incentive. It’s like the placebo effect. It works better when you have paid for the sugar pill than when someone gives it to you for free.

    The sad thing is that our workplaces, especially those that require a degree, have evolved in such a way that people who need the support of a brick-and-mortar school to finish what they have started have a short shelf-life on the job. These days, anyone who lacks the discipline to master new skills on their own is not going to remain effective in their chosen field for very long. Adapting to that reality is the real challenge for brick-and-mortar schools. It is possible that in the not-too-distant future, employers will actively prefer candidates who have achieved certification through non-traditional means to those who have graduated from traditional colleges and universities. Wouldn’t that be interesting?