The fact that MOOCs (massive open online courses) have sparked such controversy in higher education is hardly surprising. The debate about learning models, particularly on traditional — and expensive — college campuses, has been a lightning rod for many years. MOOCs simply add more fuel to an already blazing fire.
Kenneth Green, a 2012 must-read IT blogger, released an excellent white paper on the validity of MOOCs and the evolution of online learning. He notes that the sudden rise of MOOCs mimics the rise of the Internet:
For many people, the current discussions about MOOCs—and by extension, the accompanying formal and informal conversations about mission, money, and online education—will recall similar conversations more than a decade ago when the emergence of the Internet was a catalyst for campus discussions about “going online.” In the dot.com/dot.edu era, and perhaps again now, the expectation among some observers is that going online has the potential to be highly profitable and “only” requires a syllabus, servers, and students willing to sit in front of screens (“eyeballs” in the lexicon of the dot.com era). Then, as perhaps now, administrators and board members at smaller or less-well-known institutions were concerned that by going online, elite institutions (“brands”) would disrupt the market for higher education and threaten their enrollments.
Alas, neither the anticipated easy money nor the threatened market disruptions materialized.
Every college went online, and the playing field more or less leveled out again. Will the same thing happen with MOOCs?
The infographic below shows the results of a survey of higher education professionals. It explores colleges’ plans for dealing with MOOCs as well as the personal feelings of the respondents.