When the venerable Economist magazine decides to take up a theme, you know it has arrived. Now MOOCs.
I shall come back to this, again and again. But for now, three things we need to note.
1. MOOC-based disruption is coming, whether we (or should I say the higher ed establishment, for-profit and mainstream) like it for not. By and large, “we” do not, and we have made that plain by covering our heads with a blanket hoping it will go away. My estimate: within 10 years, 50% disruption of higher ed in the west. Akin to the impact of digital disruption on publishing in the past ten years.
2. The curious way in which initial efforts have been rolling out – from Stanford and MIT, for example, directly and indirectly – is an important talking point. Institutions with little fear of oblivion dare to experiment, if slowly. Institutions facing the firing squad – like the mid-level state universities and generic liberal arts colleges – are busy focusing on faculty meetings and tenure and the chatter of a world about to be hit by a stray asteroid.
3. Two terrific opportunities to be seized.
(a) Innovative states can immediately (as in, within 12 months) develop MOOC/Khan academy models to overlay and supplant the existing systems.
(b) The United States, through USAID or another agency, can develop a global (initially English-language) university offering full undergraduate programs free of charge and without prerequisites. The former has a chance of saving American education, and thereby the American future. The latter of vastly extending our influence, especially and initially in Africa where English is widely accessible. But moves into a range of languages will soon be AI-based. This will finally be more significant for U.S. global influence in C21 than another dozen carrier groups. I do not exaggerate.
So, let’s get moving in 2013.