MOOCs and Strategic Ways Forward

Donald Clark notes 7 strategic ways forward for higher ed institutions vis-a-vis Moocs: ranging from ignore to incorporating MOOCs at the center of institutional strategy. Part of the challenge for many institutions is the MOOC as an acronym obfuscates the characteristics of the phenomenon. Massive and open and online are three disparate characteristics that do not need to be taken part and parcel to be powerful aspects of institutional strategy. Open and online alone, particularly when an interactive learning experience has been the focus could be powerful components of demonstrating institutional value.

One of my favorite examples of when a MOOC isn’t just a MOOC is the UW Lacrosse Math Readiness MOOC.  Through blended design and broadcasting of synchronous lectures alongside learning objects developed over years of iteration, they are achieving results with students who weren’t quite ready to place into college algebra and participated in the MOOC prior to their first year semester. 37 out of 38 demonstrated readiness for the next level of math after participation in the MOOC. Though these numbers are modest, this flies in the face of the recent debacle with Udacity and SJSU, with Thrun’s assertion that its not an appropriate medium for students in need of remediation. Perhaps this view is overly simplistic, since MOOCs can encompass a wide range of characteristics. Perhaps the challenge is that good learning design requires strong learner support– and when we’re talking “massive” courses, the support needs to be able to scale.

But back to the original point about Donald Clark’s notes about where institutions need to go– I’m not sure I agree about MOOCs needing to be central to institutional strategy– but certainly a clear vision for how technology integration and online learning sits at the center of institutional strategy. Open education and its inter-relationship between credentialing needs to be a part of that as well. I’m just not sure “massive” is key so much as the engagement with the learner and institutions that do the engagement piece, regardless of the size of their online courses will earn their relationships with students.

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