The Golden Age of universities may be dead, but while much of the commentary around the disruption of education focuses on MOOCs and how universities will balance commercial relevance and basic research, lost in the shuffle is something arguably more important than content delivery: culture.
"Do you sometimes feel like you are out of strategies for a particular student or several students in your class even though you have tried many different instructional approaches? You are not alone. All students learn differently – and teachers work hard to meet the various needs in their classrooms. However, when I was a teacher, I didn’t feel like I was prepared to meet all of my students’ needs, nor did I feel like professional learning experiences were personalized to what I needed or how I learned most effectively. The Learning Differences MOOC for Educators addresses this gap by providing educators with rich information about students’ learning differences, while also using an online platform designed to personalize learning for educators to meet their learning needs."
"At TechCrunch Disrupt this year, Coursera Co-Founder Daphne Koller claimed that 2014 is the year MOOCs will come of age. An ecosystem has now developed around MOOCs: hundreds of people employed full-time (the big three--Coursera, Udacity and edX--employ more than a hundred people each), thousands of people involved in the creation of MOOCs, many millions in funding, and, importantly, millions in revenue."
President Obama’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology has a message for the federal government and regional accreditors: Go easy on the MOOCs.
In a report released on Wednesday, the council of engineers and scientists recommends the federal government not interfere with vendors and providers experimenting with massive open online courses and other forms of distance education. That message extends further to accreditors, which are encouraged to waive some of the standards required of institutions seeking approval for traditional programs.
“It would also be premature to impose standards and regulations that might impair the power of competitive market forces to motivate innovation,” the report reads. “If the bar for accreditation is set too high, the infant industry developing MOOC and related technology platforms may struggle to realize its full potential.”
As a third recommendation, the council suggests establishing grant programs to spur research into online education and the effectiveness of MOOCs. To support such an initiative, the data could be made available through a "national exchange mechanism" such as a "center for high-scale machine learning."
The accreditation issue is a delicate one, and many faculty critics have questioned why MOOCs are not subject to more oversight. Many of the initial MOOC providers launched with courses that offered no credit, and so said there was no need for accreditation reviews. Recently, however, MOOCs are being used by students to earn credits and certificates -- although the credit often comes from an institution, not a MOOC provider.
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