Changing Higher Learning Forever?


The first time that I hear about the MOOCS (Massive Open Online Courses, video) I thought that it was a crazy idea (I didn’t liked at all). It sounded to me as using the Internet instead of television to broadcast educational contents without caring who, where and how to learn. But after exploring with more details the ideas of Siemens (in discussion with Howard Rheingold) I could understood the rationale behind that.

It is widely acknowledged that the relationship between contents, availability, consumption and learning has been changing significantly in the last years (discussed two weeks ago in Cambridge). Nearly ten years after the creation of the OCW in MIT, now (May, 2011) Harvard and MIT have announced a new ambitious initiative (which will cost $60-Million), called edX: it will host online courses from both institutions free of charge. Since edX courses have the potential to reach hundreds of thousands of students, the edX platform will not receive university credit, although they could earn certificates.

What is the main difference between this new initiative and the previous OCW?

Basically 10 years of experiences. The current initiative is inspired in experiences such as the highly commented open course in ‘Artificial Intelligence’ offered by Stanford which gather more than 100,000 students (!). That initiative later evolved into Udacity [more information in Wired Magazine: The Stanford Education Experiment Could Change Higher Learning Forever]

Simultaneously, other educational initiatives have develop interesting practices, such as Khan Academy with millions of students, educators and self-learners using its videos. TED-Ed inspired in Khan also is doing a truly outstanding contribution in this area. Regarding new ways of assessing the learning experience, something recently discusses in an OECD summit, there are interesting initiative to learn from, such as P2P University or University of the People.

Loads of videos and new assessment methodologies are some of the ingredients that feed these changing educational practices. Very little time after the open course was offered by Stanford, MIT announced a new initiative: MITx, which in addition of providing the educational contents for free online, will implement a new system of qualification. Not based on academic degrees but on specific courses certification.

“This certificate will indicate that you earned it from MITx’s pilot course. In this prototype version, MITx will not require that you be tested in a testing center or otherwise have your identity certified in order to receive this certificate” [MITx].

Certainly behind this initiative there are a whole new sets of business models that will be required to explore with details. This new approach seems to be particularly suitable for those professionals who are aiming to re-skilling or keep updated (as well as competitive in a global labour market).

All these disruptive practices came meanwhile there is increasing interest in a creative (and probably very easy to adopt) initiative called Flipped Classroom: Where videos take the place of direct instruction, allowing students to get individual time in class to work with their teacher on key learning activities. Lectures are taken at home or somewhere else (using mobile phones or laptops) and face-to-face classes are used to discuss and promote hands-on learning experience base on the contents previously watched [see video bellow].

Now is still to be seen the middle and long terms implications of all these innovations. Also it will be interesting to see how other world-class higher institutions behave in this scenario. What are the learning implications of all these initiatives? Is open (and more flexible) education just a hype or it will really change Higher Education for ever ?

Probably the next Network of Excellence Internet Science Summer School in Oxford will be a good place to discuss it.

Video Edx

Video streaming by Ustream

Flipped Classroom