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Where We're Going, We Don't Need Classrooms: EduMOOC 2011

Aug 19, 2011

If we could hop in the DeLorean and get a glimpse of higher education in 2021, what would we see? This week's eduMOOC (Massive Open Online Course) panelists talked about what they envision as the future direction of online learning.

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By Polly Peterson

education future

Learning Without Walls

As the final week of the eduMOOC comes to a close, all of us at want to give kudos to Ray Schroeder and the Center for Online Learning, Research and Service at the University of Illinois at Springfield for organizing the eduMOOC. In a postmodern way, this online course about online learning has given us participants a venue for reflexive thought about how we learn. It also showed how an unprecedented network of 2,600 students in 113 countries could grow organically and interact widely. The designers of Stanford University's upcoming open artificial intelligence (AI) course should take note on how the eduMOOC has facilitated dialogue between the participants as enrollment in the AI MOOC swells to more than 100,000 global learners.

A perfect storm of tuition hikes, a reduction in federal subsidies and an increase in students looking to fill the gaps in their career skills have increased the prospects for open online education. Online and hybrid classes are becoming more and more popular as students need to keep their jobs to pay for school. How will higher education rise to meet these demands? Is the future of online education an AI course graded by AI?

No 1-Off Solution

The eduMOOC panelists agree; education is not one-size fits all. Bruce Chaloux (Sloan Consortium) forecasted that there will be a move away from the 'airplane model' of filling every seat endemic of the traditional brick-and-mortar schools toward the more competency-based system of distance learning.

Cable Green (Creative Commons) foresees distance learners going out to 'learn in the wild' and then seeking assessment at accredited schools or through a badge system. He touts the value of online learning in the data that's captured; data that can help faculty tailor curriculum to students' needs and improve teaching strategies.

Curt Bonk (Indiana University) sees teachers filling roles more akin to 'tour guides' who provide around-the-clock mentoring for online students as they navigate their custom-fit paths to learning. He warns that learning doesn't just happen because the educational resources are online, and there's still a very real need for teachers, frameworks and models, even for informal learning.

What are the tradeoffs? Seb Schmoller (UK Association for Learning Technology) wonders how the infrastructure will evolve to handle thousands or even millions of students enrolled in open courses that go viral. He also questions how prepared students are for the challenges of a course like the Stanford AI MOOC, when they don't have to meet the traditional requirements for enrollment in such a prestigious university.

Maybe when we step out of the DeLorean, we'll see that one of the many types of media has come to dominate education. More likely, we'll see that they are synthesized in ways that we're only beginning to imagine, breaking down hierarchies, granting broader access and creating a new understanding of understanding itself.

Are you curious about who the innovators are in OpenCourseWare? See which initiatives our readers selected to represent the face of what's to come.

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