The Internet, that ubiquitous on‑line digital world, continues its disruptive innovation. The era of sheer content explosion and availability, while still continuing, now drives second and third derivative innovations through intelligent application and near instantaneous (low latency) interactions. Whole industries have been revolutionized. As exampled by navigation: paper navigation has been transformed into intelligent routing and one day, in the not so distant future, autonomous vehicles.
Why not education? Indeed a great question! It seems not much more than 10 years ago, paper content began transforming into CBT (Computer Based Training) and then into self‑paced on‑line courses. Today we are seeing the second order of transformation with MOOCs. While still in their formative stages, these new education paradigms are challenging the foundations of educational traditions. To say the least, the genie is out of the bottle. All stakeholders, basically the entire human population, are now driving rapid change.
Three MOOCs exemplify the rapidly growing landscape. Khan Academy boosts over 4,400 ten minute videos. Literally starting as hobby, Salman Khan’s ventures have attracted almost 300 million viewings to date. From tutoring his nephews in school to the largest viewed educational site in less than 9 years.
Coursera with over 435 courses offers material designed to take typically 5 to 11 weeks. Interestingly, the founders Daphne Koller and Andrew Ng are Computer Science professors. The academic launch by Koller and Ng and their funding partners provided a missing element of credibility. Starting in the fall of 2011 one of their first courses enrolled over 100,000 students confirming the attractiveness of MOOCs.
Though smaller in scale, edX provides the most prodigious partners comprising many renowned universities from around the world. Following what can be argued as more traditional pedagogical style with prerequisites, syllabus guided learning and differentiation between the formal enrolled students and casual students considered as auditing the course.
About the only commonality between them is the cost: FREE! All three cover dozens of subject areas from arts, sciences, law and the humanities. Learning comes in as small as ten minute videos to courses lasting weeks or even months. Student support ranges from static self‑help, live sessions and to organized and rated sessions of students leading students. Each MOOC offers vastly different learning opportunities with rapidly expanding content, student support models, and methods.
Pedagogy, the science and art of education, specifically instructional theory, while rooted in centuries of a classical paradigm, runs smack into a growing tidal wave of innovative internet based delivery. Like the encyclopedias and libraries, transformations are inevitable redefining the “art” and “science” of education. The ease, asynchronous nature and near zero costs combine into a nuclear reactive force in learning thought the globe.
Credentialing remains a common aspect throughout all educational avenues and is proving critical for MOOCs’ growing support. Professional societies will continue to prove to be the corner stone of a professional career with vendor independence, whether that vendor be a supplier of technology, educational institution or MOOCs. Your knowledge, skills, and relevancy remain professionally certified through professional credentials throughout your career and regardless of how acquired.
Massive Open On-Line Courses will morph into new and innovative learning opportunities thanks to the Internet, technology and our thirst to learn. I’ll leave judgment to posterity.