Are MOOCs disruptive innovations to education?

This is a controversial question, as author argues that MOOCs are not disruptive innovations to education, but internet is.

In this who’s afraid of the big bad mooc?

The availability of high-quality online lectures is an opportunity to rethink how we spend our time in the classroom. If an online lecture presents the material, or walks students through an argument, we are freed to spend more time discussing the aspects of the material that are most difficult—or most interesting. We can do other kinds of activities that we might not have time for if we felt obliged to present the material in the traditional way. Yes, hybrid courses usually involve less face-to-face time, but that time can be better and more effectively spent.

Is MOOC a threat to quality education, especially at public universities? When MOOCs reach a critical mass, where students would accept and prefer to learn through the free open course, rather than going to pay for a course, then it is/could be.

How is quality defined? It is defined by users, students, not just by the education providers, MOOCs providers, employers alone. So, if you are to define quality education, we need to consider the different dimensions as “defined” and perceived by the “consumer”. That also makes MOOCs sound like disruptive innovation, as it could “easily” replace any courses by the super-rock-star professors who could afford to spend hundred hours in delivering their videos, and that they have established their reputation in the HE for decades. Would this be a competition between education chains, professors, etc.? It really depends on what each of the stakeholders are looking for. For learners, what are they looking for? Of course, if the elite HE institution is going to recognise their study and learning for free, why not?

Each of the professors could be “right” from their perspectives. If a professor is to use another professor’s work, why not? But then, there are implications and perceptions, also from the students’ perspective. If what the students are studying with are some other professors and some other MOOCs, then why should they be learning with the same institution and or professor? And why should they pay whereas somebody study for free? We all look into all these from “ones” perspective. When we could empathise and look deeper into the “issue” relating to these online learning, and internet-based learning, then we would realise that the internet is the main driver in disrupting everything else. These MOOCs are just catalyst as a disrupting agent, platform, where everyone wants to get the best out of it.


6 thoughts on “Are MOOCs disruptive innovations to education?

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  3. John,

    I certainly agree that MOOCs are not a disruptive innovation for education. MOOCs (at least the xMOOCs) are simply the scaling up of whet traditional HE educators do already.

    I do have to disagree with the idea that you (and Stephen and others ) have put forward that the internet or the web is the disruptive innovation. The web plays a part in the disruption, but the disruption innovation in education is information abundance, which would include the ease with which information can be transmitted and shared (the internet), but which encompasses the initial digitisation, for which the internet need not play a part.

  4. I see your point. MOOCs (at least the xMOOCs) are simply the scaling up of what traditional HE educators do already. Sounds true. As you said the web plays a part in the disruption. I do see disruptive innovation (information abundance, Web 2.0, the provision of open-free online education – OOC, and certain aspects of cMOOCs), perceived threats of Khan Academy is what concerns those Higher Education Institutions in the first place.

    That is also why Sebastian Thrun has claimed that he was inspired by Salman Khan to open up his course, followed by him setting up his Udacity. The Coursera and MITx and edx were set up with similar vision. These all seem to coincide with the concept of disruptive technology (then renamed disruptive innovation) where institutions would set aside another part of the institution (especially the edX) to “first introduce the innovation” (in the form of MOOC) so as to avoid their mainstream courses being further disrupted. This has happened to all other universities (i.e. those joining the Coursera or the edX) who joined in the offering the MOOCs to combat the threat and to leverage the opportunity of MOOCs. Is this theorising MOOCs under the theory of disruptive innovation? I think it may be too early to draw conclusion if these strategies are effective in combating those disruptive innovation. Indeed MOOCs are mimicking the internet, in a attempt to fuse some of social media elements into the course, but then the most attractive and disruptive part seem to be the “open” and “free” for all nature of MOOCs.

    Before the introduction of MOOCs, isn’t it true that there are a lot of OERs (MIT Opencourse), and a lot of online education courses already available? Why aren’t they disruptive, despite their abundance? People still have to pay for some of the courses to get a certificate. Some of these OERs are “copy-righted” and they would be allowed for use in any fee-for service and may need a lot of customization before they are useful for certain courses.

    MOOCs allow one to get a certificate for FREE (without any payment, or just pay a very small fees by now). This is the major challenge to most HE institutions. I wonder if even the most prestigious HE institutions have ever considered giving out the course “certificates” or “statement of completion” for free, if it is not due to the MOOCs. That is why most institutions (elite institutions) especially are still not willing to offer or accept MOOCs for credits.

    But what would happen if some institutions start charging small fees or free service for such credit transfer, when they could get something back, like the fees from sponsored employers, or a subsidy from government or NGO? Or if they have a business model that would challenge the traditional Higher Education business model?

    May I share this? I see internet could provide lots of affordance and disruption, and so it really depends on how one (an institution, MOOC, or any education provider, educator, learner) is going to leverage it to its advantage.

    Some people would argue that they would only allow for sustainable innovation. At this time, lots of HE institutions just have to adapt to the changes globally and locally, and so even the elite institutions have been compelled to offer MOOCs, as there is simply no return but to join the bandwagon, as many of their competitors are already on the MOOCs.

    As I have argued in previous posts, if cMOOCs are being adopted by institutions, the situation would be totally different. Though Stephen mentioned that cMOOCs were intended to disrupt the mission of institutions, I am not sure if that is the case.

    We are at the cross road in Higher Education, where disruption and innovation seems to be nuanced and fuzzy. What sounds innovative (as in MOOCs) may turn up to be something totally different, especially when privatization and monetization comes into place. Would this happen soon?

    Should we ask whether c OR x MOOCs are disruptive innovation?

    Thanks Jesse for sharing.

  5. Pingback: Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats of MOOCs | Learner Weblog

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