Wednesday, 12 August 2015

MOOCs and the Future

(Epelboin, 2015)
I viewed a slideshare deck a while ago from Professor Epelboin of UPMC at the Sorbonne. Although not narrated, his deck looked at what he described as the "very slow tsunami" of MOOCs, and their impact on Higher Education.

His slides, delivered at the EUNIS (European University Information Systems Organization) Conference 2015, appear to walk us through the concepts of 'horses for courses', where MOOCs work for main-stream global subjects with big intakes, against a 'classic' Uni taught delivery which would then work well locally.

While I feel that a narrative would have greatly fleshed out Professor Epelboin's points, I don't think we are going to stay in the place where these ideas hold true. I think people will chose not to do a degree because of the increasing cost, and that people will instead do many MOOC courses until they have covered off the components of a degree.

This will require a couple of things to be in place: some global competency standards, and there is a fair bit of work that needs to be done to ensure that completing a variety MOOC courses will be seen as meeting the components of a qualification. Additionally, to get MOOC certification currently, students have to pay a small fee. If students can't retroactively pay to get certification once they have decided on their chosen qualification, that might also be a problem.

Following that, MOOC students might be able to complete RPL (Recognition of Previous Learning - or a 'college level examination program' if offshore) with a local institution, and complete a couple of papers to top themselves up. With a net saving of probably 75% of the cost of a degree.

However, there are a couple of additional points that jarred in Professor Epelboin's slide deck. Firstly, he talks about pedagogy (child-learning)... I feel that taking an andragogical (how adults learn) perspective is more appropriate. I don't know why everyone talks about child development: I guess we don't stop to think. Secondly, as my colleague Aaron Dobbins (June 2015) wisely pointed out to me, it appears that Professor Epelboin is looking at MOOCs as a something they're not: as "same for same" university papers. If we were to do that, the papers would need more scrutiny which is not yet present, and requires that MOOCs become more expensive... defeating the purpose of the growing niche they occupy.

A MOOC is a MOOC because it is free... and I think, like Linux and Wikipedia and Google and WordPress, that MOOCs will suck the cost out of education.

Finally, despite the cost-reduction in the education sector, I don't think it will stop teachers thinking and teaching though. Because it is fun. Because it is inspirational when we see the lights go on for someone.

Perhaps we mightn't get paid for for teaching directly, but get a public stipend for provoking discussion (didn't the Greeks do that?). Ultimately, like Aaron, I "expect MOOCs to make a dent, maybe a very big dent, but the structure of in-person learning will always exist. Sometimes it's just better to discuss face-to-face" (June 2015).

Maybe the title "teacher" will be replaced by ...philosopher ...thinker ...learner ...researcher ...?