From MOOCs to Dragons

14 Apr

By Dan Butin

It used to be that medieval and renaissance maps placed sea monsters and dragons in those seemingly dangerous and unexplored places where seafarers were best to avoid. This is why “here be dragons” is a shorthand expression for stumbling into uncharted territory.

I want to suggest that we may all soon be swimming with those dragons as the second generation of digital learning technologies undergirding MOOCs become ever more commonplace and utilized.

To be clear, I am no techno-cheerleader. I believe that digital learning technologies have clear and defined limits. I am not a machine and I will not be replaced by one, exactly because, if I do my job right, I am able to go beyond the transmission of knowledge to its contextualization and transformation.

But the reality, whether we like to admit it or not, is that much of higher education is fundamentally premised on and built around a transmission model of teaching and learning (i.e., knowledge retention) and a throughput model of institutional success (i.e., student retention). As such, I believe that the second generation of MOOCs will force three distinct yet related disruptions exactly because the technology driving “MOOCs 2.0” – such as automated assessment, adaptive learning, and data analytics – are almost perfectly aligned to such models of education.

(Two asides: The first is that, yes, I know, I know, all eyes roll by now when MOOCs and “disruption” are mentioned in the same sentence; but that doesn’t change the inconvenient reality that MOOCs are but the face of massive underlying technological innovations currently underway. The second is that, yes, I know, I know, higher education is supposed to be about much more than the depositing of knowledge and conferring of a credential; but that doesn’t change the inconvenient reality that the vast majority of our students and institutions don’t experience or accomplish such lofty goals. I thus move forward with my spirit still hopeful as my eyes are wide open.)

[ Full article available at Inside Higher Ed: ]

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Posted by on April 14, 2014 in MOOCs in the News, Op-Ed


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