Why the industry should take MOOCs seriously

I am a fan of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). Now that I have successfully completed my first course, I have started two new ones. The story of how MOOCs came to be is an interesting one (If you’d like to read more about this: Nature). Although there is still a lot of room for improvement, they give us an opportunity to gain an basic understanding of a wide range of subjects.

Around me I see initiatives emerging on a much smaller scale that are derived from the MOOC concept. Although on a smaller scale than, for example, the Courseras and Udacities, they give interested parties the opportunity to learn extensive and professional knowledge in a different way.

Tidal wave of students

In 2025, there will be an estimated influx of about 265 million students! This would mean we would have to start building four universities with a capacity of 30.000 students a week to be able to meet this demand (source). MOOCs could be one of the solutions for this huge demand.

At the moment, the amount of MOOCs are exploding. The number of courses is growing and the areas of expertise are increasing too. The interest of the public is high: Coursera, for example, saw its accounts grow from almost none to nearly 3 million between February 2012 and March 2013 (see: Nature: MOOC’s rising).

For the time being, MOOCs are limited to separate courses, but I expect companies to start offering more and more clusters in the near future, such as all courses from a year or curriculum. By 2025, MOOCs will offer whole curricula and will actually become MOOCu’s.

MOOCs for companies

I often hear doubts about the involvement and motivation of students (forbes and forbes). These objections make sense, as well as the widely mentioned relatively low success rates of the participants in MOOCs (source). However, we should not lose sight of the fact that MOOCs are still in the developmental stage. I think these problems will be addressed in the near future, as far as that they can actually be seen as problems (in stead of selective learning for example).

According to TeachThought, much more will have changed by 2025: cloud-based training will become the standard, dialogic learning rises (where learning takes place between learners and peers through digital media), teachers will be replaced by simulations, and these are just a few examples. We can even imagine a future in which the management of knowledge by only one party takes terrifying forms (source).

It is interesting to look at the part that MOOCs play when it comes to education within business operations, such as accredited
(post formal education) training. It is precisely for this purpose that I see opportunities. The aforementioned small-scale initiatives focus on adult education. The MOOC could also work well in specialization courses. Think of a “Coursera” that offers selected content that allows a professional to educate at the right level.

The emergence and evolution of MOOCs also adds a lot for professional education. By supplementing the strong knowledge component within MOOCs with simulation, the possibility arises to offer training-on-the-job.

The role of learning companies

Our role in these developments is substantial. Courses require a didactical, technical and graphic design that provides a correct translation of often complex content. A good registration of the results and an integration with accreditation systems is important.

Education consists not only of knowledge, but also of application. People have different levels of education both within schools and within companies. This makes it necessary for us as learning companies to apply our knowledge by offering the content adaptively (or personalized) (LS Magazine) or by using smart application concepts such as Scenario Based Learning (LS Magazine and inBrain)

We have a major role to play. This role lies in maintaining and guarding the didactic quality of courses. By recording every action of the student, as Coursera and the Khan Academy already do, it is possible to optimize courses and monitor the quality over time. This is the area of Learning Informatics. Continuous and unprecedented feedback on how specific interactions and experiences within courses affect learning and the direct use of that feedback can make courses and learning better, even at an individual level.

MOOCs are going to change the way learning works on many levels. Our role in this is now beginning to become clear. Given the speed at which everything is developing in our field, we have to hurry to get onto this moving train before it goes too fast!



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