In a joint report, the Big Ten universities analyze the potential of MOOC platforms to improve instruction across member schools and extend the reach of a powerful brand.
By Greg Thompson
Early this year, it appeared as if MOOCs were going to blast through higher education like a wrecking ball. Pundits issued dire warnings about the competitive threat posed by massive online open courses, and some schools quickly launched MOOC degree programs as part of a first-to-market strategy. While it’s too soon to say whether MOOCs will live up to this early hype–there are signs that some of the ardor may already be cooling–even the most conservative institutions of higher education definitely sat up and took notice.
Instead of existential handwringing, though, many schools have taken a studiously methodical approach to studying how MOOCs–or variations thereof–could complement their existing educational offerings. This was one of the motivations behind a seven-page report, entitled Online Learning Collaboration: A Vision and Framework, compiled in June by the Committee on Institutional Cooperation (CIC), an academic consortium of the Big Ten universities plus the University of Chicago (IL).
In the document, the CIC goes out of its way to downplay some of the very assumptions that have garnered MOOCs so much attention. “The main drivers of innovation in higher education are not simply a function of what is technologically feasible,” the overview states. “The ability to project a course online such that hundreds, thousands, or hundreds of thousands can tune in is not, in and of itself, a means for extending educational opportunity to millions of potential students.'”
Instead, the report continues, the focus should rest on “the fundamental academic values and pedagogical principles that need to be infused in these emerging instructional technologies.” In short, the emphasis must remain on the message, not the medium. Nevertheless, it does appear that the advent of MOOCs represented something of a V-8 moment for the CIC—a collective head-slap about the potential of technology to remake higher education, albeit in ways yet to be determined.
[ Full article available at Campus Technology: http://campustechnology.com/articles/2013/10/02/beyond-the-hype-schools-chart-a-mooc-tinted-future.aspx?=CTMOOC ]