MOOC’s and the future of online learning

February 4, 2012

I seriously heart Inside Higher Ed. I don’t understand why more people don’t look at data they way they do, but thank the gods for their willingness to be empirical.

Massively Open Online Courses are not the future. Here’s the problem, which I think even the linked piece glosses over: live instructors are going to continue to be absolutely essential to scaffold students toward competencies. Khan videos are direct instruction; there are no interactive tools that can assess competency in skills above the first two levels of Bloom’s taxonomy (pretty much “tell me what you just watched/read”). That’s the real problem with MOOC’s. Online learning just won’t scale the way they think it will, I’m convinced, whether it’s GBL, PBL, or whiteboard videos.

The shift from “clock hours” or “seat time” to competency-based learning is just around the corner and much more fundamental to higher education than the explosion of online delivery itself. Awarding credits and degrees based on assessed competencies will significantly reduce time to completion and therefore increase completion rates and return on investment. More important, it ensures that students actually have mastered the set of competencies represented by the degree they have earned. Though not without significant challenges, this approach has the potential to revolutionize degree programs and all of higher education from within. That’s the real Wonderland adventure.  And we don’t need to take a pill to find it.


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