By Dominic Basulto
The first MOOC is fully taught by a machine rather than a humanIf you think about the MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) as just a form of cheap distance education for people who can’t afford “the real thing,” then you’re not thinking far enough out of the box. Thus far, the traditional market leaders – elite universities such as Stanford, Harvard and MIT – have been at the helm of the MOOC movement. That could change in 2014, if the first artificially intelligent machine begins to fully teach a MOOC — lecturing, grading and engaging with students the way a human professor might, thereby opening the door to new educational start-ups to challenge the entrenched incumbents by demolishing the current cost structure of higher education.
Unlike humans, machines would be willing to complete all the coursework and do all the assignments. Machines could enroll in — or even teach — these MOOCs not just for the knowledge, but to study how humans learn, and to pick up the various nuances of a specific field of knowledge — the same way that IBM’s Watson learns about medicine not just by memorizing a bunch of medical knowledge, but also by analyzing the case work that shows how doctors think. In short, the MOOC may have started as a way to educate humans, but it may end as a way to educate machines. At the very least, once a MOOC can be taught by a machine, it may end up making the delightfully erudite college professor a quaint artifact of the non-digital past.
[ Full article available at The Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/innovations/wp/2014/01/07/10-bold-predictions-for-2014/ ]