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How the Future of Higher Ed Looks from Whistler

From scarcity to abundance at the 2017 edX Global Forum.

December 6, 2017
 
 

The conventional wisdom is that MOOCs are dead. The reality is a bit more interesting.

Perhaps the best place to closely observe the MOOC community has been at the 2017 edX Global Forum. True-believers, skeptics, evangelists, and hanger-ons of the MOOC world have gathered in Whistler, British Columbia.

Open online learning is now 5 years old - the age of edX. According to common development milestones, a 5 year old should be able to: stands on one foot for ten seconds or longer, skip, use the future tense, and distinguish fantasy from reality.  If our MOOC community is hitting these developmental milestones is certainly up for debate.

The people championing open online learning are of the mind that big discontinuous change across the postsecondary sector is not only possible, but necessary. They see open online education as one mechanism to leapfrog the barriers of tradition, inertia, and vested interests that have served to make higher education scarce.   

Those most invested in MOOCs are not so much interested in changing how individual classes are taught, or even how individual institutions are run. Rather, they are searching for a way to today that will make a quality postsecondary education available to most everyone in the world, rather than the lucky few who have access today.

What is even more interesting is that the people who are trying to move higher education from scarcity to abundance are coming from within higher education.  This is not a group of outsiders trying to rewrite the basic economics of postsecondary learning and credentialing. These are people who believe deeply in the promise and potential of a quality undergraduate and graduate education, and who are no longer willing to accept that this experience should be reserved for the world’s most wealthy citizens.

All of this leads me to the belief that it would be a mistake to dismiss the open online education movement.

Sure, go ahead and make fun of the MOOC hype. But be clear that there is a community that is trying to push on every organizational, technological, and pedagogical lever possible to make quality higher education universally accessible.

Is that an idea that you might be able to get behind?

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