Thursday, 17 January 2013

Growing faster than Facebook

Was 2012 the Year of the MOOC?  That’s the title of an article from the New York Times in November, but if that’s the case, what are we going to call 2013?  And is MOOC pioneer Andrew Ng right that it’s “growing faster than Facebook”?
MOOC stands for Massive Open Online Courses, which already seem like such an obvious development one wonders why they haven’t been around for much longer.  They open access to learning, by offering free enrolment to unlimited numbers, and they offer scalability by automating the teaching side of the teaching/learning equation.  These were goals of the Open University (OU) in the 1960s, blazing the trail for open learning, and perhaps the technology has only now caught up.  Indeed, the OU announced in December the first UK-based MOOC, Futurelearn, to rival the US initiatives from Coursera, Ng’s initiative on leaving Stanford, edX from Harvard and MIT, Udacity and others.

The numbers are staggering, with hundreds of thousands (actually 2.3 million and counting at Coursera) taking up these free courses, which genuinely deliver everything that open, distance and e-learning ever promised: learn what you want, when you want, where you want, at the pace you want.  They also ask questions of the e-learning industry, and pose challenges to those seeking commercial benefits from learning.  The challenge they pose to traditional universities is not so new, but I wonder if they may be the last straw on that particular camel’s back?

As with the likes of Facebook, questions are being asked about monetising MOOCs, but the exponential growth numbers will take care of that, one way or another.  See, as an aside, Donald Clark’s blog on this the other day.

 This is definitely one to watch. I would go so far as to say that MOOCs are the first new game-changing development to emerge since I wrote Delivering E-Learning four years ago. This was something I did not foresee.

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