MOOCs and the Seven Futures (Part 1): MOOCs as Foil

MOOCs and the Seven Futures (Part 1): MOOCs as Foil


How do MOOCs (Massively Open Online Courses) relate to the Seven Futures framework? This post explores one of several possible ways how...

MOOCs have probably been the most prominent educational fad of 2012, and it appears that they will be around in various forms for some time to come. As part of a forthcoming SWOT analysis of MOOCs and their possible future effects on education, this post explores one of several ways that MOOCs could be used to improve education as seen through the lens of the Seven Futures framework: by being a resource, innovation source, and recourse for formal education (Free Learning Influences).

It's pretty clear that while MOOCs can be an excellent learning experience, they are inadequate by themselves as an educational experience, as they lack several of the key components required for that (e.g., strong assessment, verifiable/certifiable learning, adequate interaction with instructors or facilitators, et al.). However, MOOCs are already starting to show strong promise as a foil for formal education in several ways:

  1. As a resource for students to use as part of a formal education course. Many students are using MOOCs in this manner, and the emerging trend to turn MOOCs into educational experiences by adding the additional components necessary could also be seen as using MOOCs as a resource.
  2. As a recourse for thousands of students who otherwise have limited access to the types of educational experiences that MOOCs are providing. This is one of the great appeals of MOOCs: making learning experiences available to audiences for which they were previously inaccessible. As a form of OER 2.0, MOOCs have added more interactive and assessment components, moving them closer to actual educational experiences.
  3. As a source of innovation. This one is tricky in that a lot of the so-called innovations touted for MOOCs are really just rediscoveries of the tried and true, for instance mastery learning techniques, alternative forms of assessment, or self-directed learning to name a few. MOOCs enable professors, other facilitators to try out and encounter these techniques, so in this sense MOOCs enable more widespread access to underutilized innovations as opposed to creating new ones, and they have the potential to do much more of this. As for MOOC-generated innovations, the original MOOC idea of opening up a mainstream course to an audience outside the campus boundaries was innovative, but I'm hard pressed at the moment to come up with another MOOC-generated idea that is truly new. (Perhaps in a later post...)

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