Online Education as an Agent of Transformation
By CLAYTON M. CHRISTENSEN and MICHAEL B. HORN
WHEN the first commercially successful steamship traveled the Hudson River in 1807, it didn’t appear to be much of a competitive threat to transoceanic sailing ships. It was more expensive, less reliable and couldn’t travel very far. Sailors dismissed the idea that steam technology could ever measure up — the vast reach of the Atlantic Ocean surely demanded sails. And so steam power gained its foothold as a “disruptive innovation” in inland waterways, where the ability to move against the wind, or when there was no wind at all, was important.
In 1819, the technology vastly improved, the S.S. Savannah made the first Atlantic crossing powered by steam and sail (in truth, only 80 of the 633-hour voyage was by steam). Sailing ship companies didn’t completely ignore the advancement. They built hybrid ships, adding steam engines to their sailing vessels, but never entered the pure steamship market. Ultimately, they paid the price for this decision. By the early 1900s, with steam able to power a ship across the ocean on its own, and do so faster than the wind, customers migrated to steamships. Every single transoceanic sailing-ship company went out of business.
[ … ]
Meanwhile, many universities have jumped on the MOOC bandwagon, creating a hodgepodge of these massive open online courses for public consumption. But for MOOCs to really fulfill their disruptive potential, they must be built into low-cost programs with certification of skills of value to employers. So far, only a few traditional universities have incorporated MOOCs into their curriculum, and only to supplement what they are already doing — like “flipping the classroom,” with lectures watched from home.
MITx is trying to add structure to the MOOC free-for-all by rolling out a sequence of computer science foundational courses this fall, and the MOOC provider Coursera has just started the Wharton M.B.A. Foundation Series. But perhaps the most promising experiment is from the Georgia Institute of Technology, which next year will start offering a $6,600 online master’s degree, a sixth the price of its current degree, in partnership with the MOOC platform Udacity and AT&T Georgia Tech is putting its reputation behind a MOOC credential.
[ Full article available at The New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/03/education/edlife/online-education-as-an-agent-of-transformation.html ]