By Dr. Jeff Borden
Do you remember all the way back in 2013? You know, the year North West was born, the Harlem Shake made its debut, and selfies changed phone texting rates. More notably, there was the bombing at the Boston Marathon, our climate proved that abnormal would be the new normal, and our planet lost Nelson Mandela. But for those of you who attend education conferences, you also likely remember 2013 as the year that showed 5-10 MOOC sessions on every program or agenda. Some will say 2012 was the Year of the MOOC (Massive Open Online Course), but 2013 was where all of the publicity started to catch up to the hype. And as someone who goes to 30 conferences a year, for me it was the year of MOOC overload!
The “e-vangelists” were out in full force with the over-promising and under-delivering of ed tech rhetoric. MOOCs were going to save Higher Education (or destroy it, depending on the session you attended); MOOCs would finally allow tiny State schools or small private colleges the ability to play on the national stage and compete with R-1’s and the Ivy League; and MOOCs would make education a true commodity, thereby creating a financially viable education-for-all system. MOOCs even made popular news media outlets like The New York Times and Time Magazine.
But then, almost as quickly as they took the world by storm, they disappeared. Long gone from the pages of the Posts and Heralds, good luck finding any mention of a “MOOC” in an education journal or website today. Read the course catalogues of most universities today and you won’t find many if any MOOC offerings. Even some of the MOOC start-ups have “changed course” (See Udacity.) And I have now been to more than a dozen conferences in 2014 without a mention of MOOC in the program… But, despite the fact that most people have (prematurely) dismissed MOOCs as an education experiment-gone-awry, like “Base 8 Math” or “No Child Left Behind”, a few people have kept their eye on the MOOC ball.
And, like those who never faltered from the learning analytics conversation, the small but passionate few who learned important lessons from the MOOC fever of the past two years will likely be rewarded. Why? Because the lessons learned were valuable and important for ALL of education…not just eLearning and not just courses trying to reach 100,000 students.
Pragmatic education matters. I get the argument for liberal arts, well-rounded, holistic education. I’ve heard passionate educators make fantastic arguments about the dangers of technical-only degrees. Likewise, I get the argument for more pages in our textbooks leading to more freedom and creativity for teachers but also more options and possibilities for students. After all, one might argue that despite being a top tier PISA or TIMMS scoring country typically through a laser-focused approach (such as studying 1/3 as many math, language, and science topics in school compared to the USA) has not resulted in much creativity or entrepreneurialism.
[ Full article available at WIRED: http://www.wired.com/2014/08/moocs-are-dead-long-live-the-mooc/ ]