MOOCs as double edged swords

Are MOOCs losing their original worthy goals?

Kevin concludes:

Hijacked MOOCs are flagship (institution)-led, starting to cost (increasingly), often hybrid, faculty headshot to camera, tech sophistication layered on, little-to-zero impact on faculty member revisiting / learning? pedagogy (in any format) and not very massive. They’re mostly taken by education technologists, already-qualified individuals and Tom Friedman.

It’s the strategic analysis and “nuanced discussion” that I want us all back to. Proper MOOCs may work for some, others may just choose to use open online materials and some may even have a mission to support affordable education for underserved communities (my favorite).

Read more:
Inside Higher Ed

I think the current xMOOCs are doubled edged swords. Either way would cut into the flesh of Higher Education.

If xMOOCs are accepted by the mainstream and most institutions and flourish, what would happen?

Enrollment & revenue for those elite institutions would likely increase significantly, though enrollment & revenue for many “traditional” and prestigious universities would decrease dramatically, when more students flocked to xMOOCs, for free.  This upward pressure to enroll more students would force the elite institutions to provide more xMOOCs, but then it is doubtful if students would continue their studies and pay the fees with those institutions, as those courses offered in the main campus are still relatively expensive.

Though viewed as less in quality, and less in interactivity with the professors as compared with the normal degree courses run by colleges and universities, xMOOCs would allow more people to take a free ride, and to consume the content and “knowledge” as disseminated by the professors.

Would this lead to more educators and professors a need to change their way of teaching, as they would likely find it harder to teach and compete with the Super Rockstar professors any more?  Many teachers and professors might be expected to embrace the flipped classroom, and are expected to “produce” quality videos for the courses which could take tens or hundreds of hours in production.  There may also be a huge investment of time and resources just to “push” such education to learners on a massive scale, in order to lure more educators and learners to take on the xMOOC bandwagon.

This may further lead to competition not only among professors, but also among education institutions, and education chains, as they are looking for “survival” in this world looking for learners to join the education game.  Surely, this would lead to winners and losers, and so a battle is waiting on its way.

As George sighs here:

In the long run, we’ll all hate MOOCs because they will reflect the failed hope of equitable and affordable access to education as well as the salivating greed of those wishing to commercialize and globalize education.

Let’s have a multiple choice:

What does the acceptance and success of MOOCs mean to us?

(A) A disappointment in democratising education as education is taken over by private providers.

(B) A great celebration as more people are receiving such education for free.

(C) A great building of universities and education institutions by re-gaining its status in gate keeping, knowledge recognition and qualification granting in Higher Education.

(D) A complete overhaul of Higher Education where only highly qualified professors and prestigious and elite Higher Education Institutions would survive and thrive in the coming future.

(E) None of the above.

If  xMOOCs are not accepted by the mainstream and most elite institutions, what would happen?

The professors who have done the xMOOCs would be most worrying, as well as the xMOOC providers, as this would impact on their institutions, and the reputation in the provision of quality education.   This would lead to a loss of confidence in Higher Education, especially when such education businesses don’t appeal to students who are well accustomed to the elite education, or those associated with the prestige of getting a Higher Degree in Higher Education.

Where is the value point from the Higher Education Institution, if it is not for the “degree”?  Indeed, there are differences in perception in many learners in the West, that are different from those learners in the East.  For instance, many younger learners in the West are looking for a quality education and learning experience, that may be expected from a degree course in Higher Education Institutions and Universities.  They may be looking for a course that would help them in finding a job or building up skills for a career through such study (in MOOCs or degree).

Many young learners in the East are however more pragmatic, in that they might be looking for a degree first, and would therefore more likely take every opportunity that is available to study, including MOOCs, in case if they couldn’t get into a degree program or couldn’t afford to pay for such a program.  Many learners coming from an Eastern culture are also brought up with a teacher-centred based education (see my previous post on cultural differences), and so the current xMOOCs may match perfectly to  some of their needs.  They would likely prefer to consume the knowledge delivered by the professors, and take as much as they could get from those MOOCs.  But would these sort of learners afford to pay for the education in Higher Education Institutions?  May be some could, but most may not have the luxury to do so.

So, what would these leave the world with?

Those who could afford to attend the elite institutions would likely enjoy more with the enriching, interactive and community-based (classroom face to face) experience with the professors, whilst the other millions students would likely take the xMOOCs which are “free” for them to take, though they would unlikely be accepted for credits unless they sit for the proctored examinations or be re-assessed by the Higher Education Institutions.

These Higher Education Institutions would then have to find ways in re-building their reputation and credibility in the provision of quality online education and learning.

Another Multiple Choice:

What does a rejection and failure of MOOC mean to us?

(A) A re-building of Higher Education, where Higher Education Institutions have to re-think about the strategic positioning and value proposition of their courses, for a premium, or for free.

(B) A push for more MOOCs in order to re-gain the status of MOOCs in education.

(C) A re-configuration of the MOOCs which would be based on fees for service and sound business model FIRST, based on value proposition and target marketing (i.e. targeting the right learners, at the right time, right place, with the right fees).

(D) A complete overhaul of Higher Education where only highly qualified professors and prestigious and elite Higher Education Institutions would survive and thrive in the coming future.

(E) None of the above.

Let’s see your answers, and let me know if you would like to share:

Q1. A (  %), B (  %) , C (  %), D (  %), E (  %)

Q2. A (  %), B (  %) , C (  %), D (  %), E (  %)

Hope I could consolidate some of the responses within 2 weeks time.  Just for fun.

MOOC (300)


14 thoughts on “MOOCs as double edged swords

  1. Good piece but the multiple choice questions pose mutually exclusive options. MOOCs are stimulating fruitful debate, reflection and action on teaching in Higher Education. I feel that the article ignores the point that existing teaching is often poor, with its long-lecture format, long waits for feedback on essays etc. – disinterest is not uncommon. We have to be honest about the weaknesses of the present system – too inefficient and expensive. I’m optimistic in that they promise more open, diverse and cheaper access to HE. I went to an elite UK University and Ivy league in the US.I don’t recognise this great learning experience you talk of and when I speak to students these days, they get largely the same treatment. I’m taking a number of MOOCs and am absolutely delighted with the detail and quality of the experiences.

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  6. Thanks Donald for your valuable insights. Yes, there are plenty of rooms for improvement with the current teaching. I haven’t addressed that in my post. I have shared some of my views about teaching online here and yes, MOOCs are stimulating fruitful debate, reflection and action on teaching in Higher Education. There are some great teachers and professors who have inspired others both in c and xMOOCs, and so it would be wonderful to recognise their contributions to HE.
    Are MOOCs part of the “wicked problems” or solutions? Why? What are the reasons for introducing MOOCs? If MOOCs are to address the weaknesses of the present system – too inefficient and expensive, then who should be involved in improving and innovating the system? Are MOOCs improving the overall education productivity and quality – i.e. in the provision of more efficient and cheaper education? Will MOOCs, offered for free cheapen the brand of the world’s most prestigious universities? If we think MOOCs are cheap, should we consider the actual cost per MOOC? $250,000 per MOOC. Is it cheap? What are some of the social costs to education and community?

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