How MOOCs are Transforming Higher Education

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This past week I had the opportunity to talk to the Greater Milwaukee Committee about how MOOCs are transforming higher ed. Read the article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel here.

 
MOOCs, or “Massive Open Online Courses”, trace their origins to 2011, when Sebastian Thurun offered an online course on Artificial Intelligence, through Stanford University. Free to everyone (except the 200 Stanford students that had already paid for it), his video curriculum created an explosion in learning.

Over 160,000 people signed up for the course. After all, it was free.

Basically, Stanford was offering open enrollment at no charge.

Ultimately, 23,000 people completed the course. Thurun left Stanford, and started Udacity.  The MOOC concept was born, and thought leaders at MIT, Harvard and other institutions have created their own MOOC solutions.  So have companies like Coursera, Udemy, and more.

Transforming Higher Ed: Implications of MOOCs

MOOCs with Chris Westfall WUWM In a radio interview on “Lake Effect” at WUWM, I spoke about the implications of the new MOOC model. Utilizing new teaching techniques (called the “Flipped Classroom”) and capitalizing on advanced interactive capabilities made possible by social media platforms, MOOCs are creating greater accessibility than ever before. Schools like the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee are already offering a “flex plan” option, so you can learn what you want, when you want to. While it’s true that no video instruction can replace the four year college experience, statistics show that students are more interested in learning that socializing. And socializing today means something very different than it has in the past.

Another factor influencing the explosion of MOOCs is the eye-popping price of tuition today. Here’s a fun fact: What’s the only cost that’s risen more than healthcare in the last ten years? The cost of a college education.

While a number of factors have contributed to this transformation in higher ed, the key driver, I believe, is the overwhelming need for greater instruction. In the information economy, knowledge is currency.

The world spends over $3Trillion dollars a year on education – with $1.3 Trillion being spent at US institutions. The need for competency, certification and credentials is growing exponentially – and MOOCs are meeting that need.

Picture this:

  1. If Stanford, Harvard or MIT started offering open enrollment, what would that mean to your favorite institution of higher learning?
  2. If you could go online for free, and gain the skills you needed (not just a degree) in order to advance your career, would you do it?  (Remember: you can do it in your pajamas, after work, or before you pick up the kids from school.  Even if you’re a 15 year old prodigy, you can still participate.  Are you interested?)
  3. For businesses: What changes about the relationship between your organization and academia, when skills and learning can be distributed around the clock, without geographic boundaries?

MOOCs: Making Economic and Academic Changes

The market is shifting, and what it means to be a “traditional college student” continues to change. Courses are being delivered without regard to your location, your age, or what time of day you would like to learn. The idea of the “Sage on the Stage” providing a lecture to a classroom at 10am on Tuesdays and Thursdays is a limited and costly business model. The US spend on education is $1.3 Trillion.  Balance that against the outstanding student loan debt in this country: $1.2 Trillion.

The lecture hall, inside the hallowed walls of your favorite university, is changing.  You and I both know “that’s the way we’ve always done it” – but does that mean it’s the most effective method?

Well, I’m not sure…but it’s certainly the most expensive.

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Chris Westfall, Keynote Speaker