Now that the digital genie is out of the educational bottle, how will educational institutions react? Things are evolving fast but as Gibson said, the future is already here, it’s just not evenly distributed. However, the future is certainly starting to take shape.
MIT mainstreams EdX
In a fascinating article in Inside Higher Ed, Anat Agarwal, the President of EdX said something remarkable while keynoting at the Sloane Conference on Online Learning. He started with an odd description of EdX as the ‘particle accelerator of learning’. Sound hyperbolic? Maybe not, as MOOC learners are heading way beyond 5 million and beyond. Even more interesting was MITs report Institutional Task-Force on the the Future of MIT Education, where EdX as a key component in its strategy.
In a remarkable strategic move MIT is looking at “unbundling education and blurring boundaries”. Their published report points towards “blended learning” with EdX as part of MITs mainstream, student experience, not just an external, online adjunct. Agarwal wants to redesign undergraduate courses along blended lines, with less on-campus attendance, more online courses and blending into the workplace. It is clear that MOOCs, and EdX in particular, will to a degree, reshape MITs education. But it may also shape the MOOCosphere beyond MIT.
EdX has already clustered seven major advantages:
1. Open source
2. Strong R&D stream (Essay grading etc.)
3. Credibility (MIT & Harvard with $60m plus revenues)
4. MIT first to see MOOCs as a mainstream strategy
5. Google backing (Google Coursebuilder & MOOC.org)
6. Corporate adoption (Tenaris and others)
7. International reach (France & China)
Maths goes massive
The University for industry (Ufi), of which I am a Trustee, has funded a Maths MOOC. We looked at Udacity (literally flew out to see them) but put our money on Google and EdX, with CogBooks giving us an extra pedagogic turbo-charge. This looks, for the moment, like a good bet, as we’re backing a horse that is open source and promises, fort all the reasons above, to be a major MOOC player. But will it be THE player?
On the MOOC chessboard, EdX and Coursera and have emerged as the King and Queen. EdX has the stature and advantages as stated above, Coursera already has the ability to sprint across the board and make big, bold moves. Udacity is a rook that has moved sideways into the corporate sphere. Others, such as Futurelearn, are new knights, navigating their way erratically forward but without the big money and reach. Then there’s the pawns, lots of little outfits moving forward, at different rates. But remember one thing about a pawn – it has the ability to turn into a Queen and destroy the opposition.