The beauty of every real business transformation is that we can’t know how it will change everything. Innovations like Facebook, Twitter, and the iPad have cascaded incredible changes across our lives in ways that no one could have predicted or even understood before the last decade. With the advent of MOOCs, a similar scenario is playing out in learning and education.
At the classroom level…I’ve been talking with Associate Professor Kathryn Jablokow, at Pennsylvania State University since she taught her first MOOC last year. She’s finding MOOCs are transforming education in unexpected ways. For professors, MOOCs can yield valuable information about how students learn. “We can get hundreds of thousands of data points from students to look at the best ways to present information, which exercises are really productive, and which do students look at and learn from the most,” says Jablokow.
Already the coaching process that Penn State MOOC instructors participated in to create their videotaped sessions has spilled over into the classroom. “We’re all good teachers but the power of learning how to find the core of what you want to say, and presenting it in a way that is most approachable and acceptable for people has had a huge impact on how we give presentations, lead discussion forums, and develop materials in the classroom as well,” says Jablokow.
Jablokow also sees MOOCs changing the role of the teacher. “People talk about not wanting to be the sage on stage. We should be the guide on the side. In the MOOC settings, you couldn’t be anything but the guide. You’d also go back to your lecture hall or graduate class to recreate it there.”
At the institutional level…MOOCs are forcing institutions to learn how to collaborate, share resources, and shake off an historical institutional-centric world view. All of this goes against the traditional grain of this community. Michael Nanfito, Executive Director at the National Institute for Technology in Liberal Education (NITLE), says that, “Higher education is built to resist change, that’s been part of its success for hundreds of years. The accreditation and competency systems put in place to govern what is to be given as credit are coming under scrutiny. How do you measure competency? How do you determine what is creditable? Those are questions I’m hoping we can start to ask.”
In the business world…Companies continue to push the envelope with new educational approaches. SAP has recently expanded its openSAP MOOC curriculum from software development to include business best practices. Its newest offering, Sustainability and Business Innovation, has attracted over 12,000 (and counting) participants to date.
Yet another learning idea is SuperSummit, billed as the “first ever network of free live online experts.” The brainchild of former Sky News host, Marco Montemagno, SuperSummit serves up what the company calls MOVES (Massive Open Virtual Events) featuring live video interviews with topic experts, primarily covering presentation skills. Participants can ask questions in real-time, and for a fee access archived sessions. The Italian-based platform, which aims to share information in a personalized, informal atmosphere, makes its international debut with a week-long event May 12-16.
It’s far too early to understand the full impact MOOCs will have on education. What students, instructors, schools, and business can count on, though, is further disruption to the learning process as these new ways of gaining and sharing knowledge take hold.
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