What’s the Future for Online Learning?

Picture 4So what do you think of massively open online courses (MOOCs)?

Well, they’re not “massively open” like they were at the start (back in 2008), since now they’re tied to venture capital, the profit motive, tuition fees, and corporate/university branding. There were those who thought they were the future of higher ed, and not just for distance ed students either, but there are now those who are not so confident.

For example, see this article — posted online by an REL grad (thanks, Chris Scott) — which opens with the following:

Picture 5So what do you think of MOOCs?

One thought on “What’s the Future for Online Learning?

  1. I had a vigorous debate about this last year at SUNY’s conference on Collaborative Online International Learning. I argued that collaboration that involves learning requires real-time interaction. MOOCs are structured to exclude this. I think MOOCs take a fraction of the best potential of digital media – interactivity – and pair it with with the more conventional aspects of learning management systems: asynchrony. Touted as “anywhere, any time,” the asynchronous element also removes what I think is the best part of digital media today: synchronous interactivity. Most MOOCs remove the synchronicity of the bricks-and-mortar classroom and without putting something analogous in its place. I’m all for online collaboration, but an individual in a MOOC asynchronously interacts with others. The lessons learned through real-time cooperation cannot be replicated outside of actual time spent living and working together.

    For me, I appeal to the conversation between MK Gandhi and J. Nehru on India’s modernization, Gandhi argues for village-based independence within an autonomous India, where “the unity of society should be a village, or call it a small and manageable group of people who would, in the ideal, be self-sufficient (in the matter if vital requirements) as a unit bound together in the bonds of mutual co-operation and inter-dependence.” (http://www.mkgandhi.org/Selected%20Letters/Selected%20Letters1/letter14.htm). Gandhi opposed Nehru’s modernization programme, because it removed the village. Likewise, I think MOOCs are a poor use of resources and potential because they remove the synchrony of the village. There is no online swaraj/independence without village/gram swaraj. Maybe I’m stretching my Gandhianism too far…

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