Harvard develops the next big thing for online learning. Is this the real deal?
The biggest success for online courses and their greatest problem are the same - the huge numbers attracted.Students on campus are also using the online materials available for free
It demonstrates the scale of the unmet demand for higher education, but at the same time it's not clear how tens of thousands of students on a course could ever satisfactorily be taught, assessed and accredited. Most of these signs-up will sign off without completing courses.
At Harvard, more people have signed up for Moocs in a single year than have attended the university in its entire 377-year history. That's a great success story in opening up education, but what do you do with all those hungry minds?
Enter the Spoc. And the clue is in the "small, private" part of the name. These courses are still free and delivered through the internet, but access is restricted to much smaller numbers, tens or hundreds, rather than tens of thousands.
It means a selection process for applicants and the capacity for a more customised experience. Looking further down the track, it wouldn't be difficult to imagine fees and course credits.