Free online courses changed the life of one super-smart Mongolian teenager. His name is Battushig Myanganbayar, and four years ago, while he was still a high-school student in Ulan Bator, he took a massive open online course from MIT. It was one of the first they had ever offered, about circuits and electronics, and he was one of about a hundred and forty thousand people to take it. He not only passed, he was one of about three hundred who got a perfect score. He was only 15 years old.
He was hailed in The New York Times and other media outlets as a boy wonder, and soon he got accepted to the real MIT campus. It was a feel-good story that matched the hopeful narrative about MOOCs at the time. These free courses were touted as a way to bring top education to underserved communities around the world. The New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman soon wrote that “Nothing has more potential to unlock a billion more brains to solve the world’s biggest problems.” This was the peak of the MOOC hype.
Today, Mr. Myanganbayar remains a fan of MOOCs, but he also has a critique of this knowledge giveaway, and he questions how much good it’s really doing for people in the developing world.
After taking a MOOC, “What do you do?” he asks. “If you’re just learning for the sake of the learning, the knowledge alone is useless without the opportunity to build, or show, or to use it.”
While at MIT, he has continued to take free online courses on the side, especially those on data science to help him with research projects that he’s worked on here. Like many students that I’ve met at MIT, he’s focused on trying to solve real-world problems with his student research — he helped build an electronic glove for the blind, for instance — and that’s his main problem with how colleges have handled MOOCS.
[ Full article available at The Chronicle of Higher Education: http://chronicle.com/article/This-Mongolian-Teenager-Aced-a/236362 ]