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Monday, February 25, 2013

EdX, MOOCs, the Road Ahead


I suspect in response to my latest post over at MathTango, and/or recent one here, Sol Lederman emailed me a link to another blog that has a recent interview with Anant Agarwal, President of edX, another major MOOC endeavor that competes with Coursera and other online education efforts (edX is a non-profit backed by Harvard and MIT, two educational interests you may have heard of).  It is a great, and positive, discussion of the future of the MOOC model (over 7 pages though, so it requires some reading commitment, but worth it); it also delineates some of the differences between Coursera and edX:

http://tinyurl.com/b8oy5aw

Too much to try and summarize, but I think this quote from the interviewer, Sramana Mitra, actually captures much of what Agarwal is suggesting:
"This is the paradigm where education is going. I truly believe online education is the driver. The old model of education was the ‘sage on stage’ model, where a professor stood in the front of a class to guide learning. That is fine if you have excellent professors, but there are really smart professors who do not have the charisma to present a topic in a way that students can understand. When quality content is delivered from an online source, there is a consistency in the content. The course itself can be benchmarked and the results tracked, allowing the course content to mature to ensure students are learning the material they are supposed to learn. The paradigm shift is toward the blended model. Even if you have a mediocre or substandard professor, the course material itself is excellent. The professors can still serve a  worthy function as they are there managing the classroom and guiding discussions. They provide structure and administration. The students learn from world-class content. That is a highly scalable education model."
I've already expressed my belief that MOOCs ARE a wave of the future (in some form)... but IF, with the rapidly-growing time, energy, money, and talent going into them, they indeed fail, it won't be for lack of creative effort... and it will say a great deal about the nature of human learning.



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