When I first heard of a MOOC, a vision of a wooly beast came to mind – not quite. A MOOC is a Massive Open Online Course. MOOCs harness and embrace the power of the Internet, social media and students – with one admission requirement – the desire to learn.
Massive: Anyone from anywhere can participate, contribute and collaborate Open: Open to anyone, no admission requirements, free Online: Access – Internet connection and web enabled device Course: A structured course around a topic (any topic), initiated by one or more individuals with an interest and background in topic (though not always). Course content can be delivered via: readings, videos, live chats, wiki’s and/or discussion boards. MOOCs function as a traditional course, with a syllabus, guidelines but with many contributors. College credit or a certificate of completion is not given at this point, however with Mozilla’s initiative Open Badges this is due to change.
MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) created some waves at the end of 2011 in Higher Education circles with the announcement of a new initiative – MITx, an expansion of MIT’s Open Course Ware program. MITx plans to offer credentials to any learner who demonstrates, through an assessment process that they have mastered the given content of a course offered FREE through MIT’s OpenCourseWare. Disruptive? Yes – the timing couldn’t be better – just as Higher Ed approaches a crisis with rising costs for a degree and the pressure to show value, MIT suggests an attractive alternative.
First things first – What is MIT OpenCourseWare?
MIT launched in 2002 OpenCourseWare, a web based program that offered the school’s educational content for all undergraduate and graduate level courses offered by the school – online and available to anyone. Learners have access to all educational materials – streaming video lectures, syllabi, exams, notes etc. What is missing is the interaction with classmates, feedback from professor, college credits, or certification of any kind. However this doesn’t seem to bother the 1,000,000 visitors who go to the OpenCourseWare site each month.
What about MITx?
Fast forward to 2011, MIT’s Provost Rafeal Reif launches MITx, a research project in online teaching and learning. There are two significant aspects of the program:
1) MIT will offer an open-source learning management platform (similar to Moodle) to any institution, ” [MIT will] operate … an open-source, scalable software infrastructure in order to make it continuously improving and readily available to other educational institutions.”
2) The program will “allow for the individual assessment of any student’s work and allow students who demonstrate their mastery of subjects to earn a certificate of completion awarded by MITx.”
Both of these initiatives are significant undertakings, and could potentially offer tremendous value to students seeking higher education on a budget. Imagine getting a world-class education for free?
MITx Credentials will not bear the MIT name
It makes sense that MIT will administer this program as an extension of their school, thus bearing a different name. According to the MITx common question page, “online learners who demonstrate mastery of subjects could earn a certificate of completion, but any such credential would not be issued under the name MIT. Rather, MIT plans to create a not-for-profit body within the Institute that will offer certification for online learners of MIT coursework. That body will carry a distinct name to avoid confusion.” This makes good sense, and it appears to be well thought out.
Online education will continue to grow, with accredited courses and programs being offered by even the elite universities.
The open source Learning management platform (LMS) offered by MITx will influence availability, quality and price structure of learning management platforms. Competition will increase, benefiting educational institutions in general.
Higher Education institutions will need to examine their own models of online education offering. Demonstrating value to the ‘customer’ will be a requirement for a successful education program in the near future.
Higher Education institutions that fail to provide a quality online product and show value, will be in jeopardy.
Students will become educated consumers and ‘shop’ for the best program to fit their needs at a price that doesn’t saddle them with huge debt.
I can’t wait to see the developments in Online Education for 2012! Hold on to your mice! 🙂
Those of you familiar with Moodle, Blackboard, Desire2Learn etc. – a learning management platform (LMS) of some sort, will most likely agree that for whatever reason, it is not ‘quite right’ – too cumbersome – too expensive – too complicated – take your pick. Voila, we now have (or soon will have) OPEN CLASS, Pearson’s new LMS, whose mantra is OPEN, EASY and AMAZING. During a recent Webinar hosted by Campus Technology, the design and marketing team of OPEN CLASS revealed the key features and uniqueness of this LMS platform that appears pretty darn … amazing. In fact, my first reaction was that OPEN CLASS is too good-to-be true – read on to see why.
The platform appears to have been thoughtfully and carefully developed resulting in a system that is user-friendly and interactive. Interactivity is accomplished by blending the best of social media tools with learning applications making the entire learning experience not just relevant but meaningful. Below is a screen shot of OPEN CLASS from the instructor’s perspective, displaying the courses she is teaching on the left, and the ‘people’ or students and colleagues on the right.
It’s not merely Facebook or Google + with a bit of learning thrown in, though OPEN CLASS incorporates elements from each that will work beautifully for creating a robust and rich educational online environment. The platform inherently encourages students to collaborate, study, email, chat and share with professor or classmates with a single sign-on. Not to mention students can access their course content, syllabus, assignments and grade book all within OPEN CLASS’ attractive, user-friendly interface.
The mantra of OPEN CLASS is this: OPEN, EASY and AMAZING. Which is a genius marketing strategy, considering existing LMS platforms are anything but, and the simplicity of the message is ohh so attractive. I’ve summarize the three concepts below.
OPEN: The system is currently in the Beta (test) phase, but anyone with access to Google Apps for Education can begin using it right now. In mid 2012, Open Class will be OPEN to anyone, yes anyone. The platform is Open because it seamlessly incorporates e-books (which is why Pearson is behind this), though any publisher’s text books can be included.
EASY: Now here is what to get excited about …OPEN CLASS seems intuitive, (a.k.a. easy), meaning instructors/designers can begin using the platform with minimal learning curve. Instructors have access to user-friendly tools for grading, creating exams, and communicating either with individual students or the entire class. Accessing content and learning objects is apparently seamless, the system is designed to be able to access open source resources, online content, and allows instructors to communicate across institutions. On a personal note, if the grade book tool in OPEN CLASS actually is as easy and effective to use as it looks, I will do a jig on the spot – having pulled my hair out trying to decipher the complexities of the Moodle grade book for almost two years now. Below is an image of the Grade Book from the Instructor’s perspective.
AMAZING: Best of all it is FREE. Yes you heard right – FREE. This is why it seems too good-to-be true. And there are no licensing costs, no software to download or maintain, or hosting costs. Yes amazing. You might wonder if there is a catch – there is none according to Pearson. However you can see the brilliance behind Pearson’s strategy – Pearson is a text-book publishing company, there is an increasing interest in e-books, interactive content, learning is going mobile and online, etc., etc. Pearson is just putting themselves ahead of the game. Failure to adapt will make text-book companies obsolete in the near future, think of the recent demise of the book store in the United States, Borders.
I encourage you to go to the website if you want to learn more. Many schools are in the test phase including Rice University, Arizona State, Columbia to name just a few. Of course you can also sign-up for OPEN CLASS with a Google Apps account, or in just a few short months OPEN CLASS will be open to all, easy as that! And yes, don’t forget Amazing. To find out more: joinopenclass.com