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From MOOCs to HARVARDs: will online go mainstream?

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) draw a spectrum of responses. Should we be spruiking MOOCs? Spooked by MOOCs? Or hoping the hype will fade and the fad will pass? Most of us know the headlines. Free…

Will the hype around free high quality higher education last? Online image from www.shutterstock.com

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) draw a spectrum of responses. Should we be spruiking MOOCs? Spooked by MOOCs? Or hoping the hype will fade and the fad will pass?

Most of us know the headlines. Free online courses from leading institutions, open to students in their thousands. Digital content and highly scalable courseware. Student learning supported by virtual cohorts, learner analytics, embedded assessments and digital certificates.

In some fields at least, the mass production of elite higher learning is now feasible. As a Grattan Institute report notes:

The economic key to online delivery is that marginal costs … are low. Once the course materials and assessment exercises are put online, they can be used by more students at very low additional cost.

Will an “avalanche” of high quality, low cost, mass scale online courses “revolutionise” higher education, as Pearson’s Michael Barber predicts? Will universities be dismantled in the process?

Recent reviews such as the UK government’s “maturing of the MOOC” report find credible opinion divided.

Great for learning, bad for business?

For most universities, MOOCs are both a threat and an opportunity. Terrific for the traditional academic mission but terrifying for the traditional business model. Once their quality is accepted as comparable to campus-based study, MOOCs represent what Harvard’s Clay Christensen calls a “disruptive innovation”, capable of reshaping an industry, in this case higher education.

In this future, students will face a wide range of fees for similar courses with different delivery channels. They’ll factor in the time, travel and living costs associated with fully online versus mainly campus-based study. Then, allowing for the brand recognition each institution confers with its degrees, they’ll choose their best option.

In a report on “disruptive education” Sean Gallagher and Geoffrey Garrett from the Universities of Sydney and New South Wales predict that:

“Students will only continue to pay real money for university degrees if they continue to add much more value than other cheaper and more convenient educational experiences and credentials.”

If the 2011 Base Funding Review is a guide, Australian universities aren’t ready for this. Its 130-page report mentioned online study just three times and saw no real change to the organisation or economics of higher education:

“While the increased use of ICT could arguably lead to a reduction in some costs…there seems to be a consensus in the sector that e-learning and other activities supplement rather than replace existing teaching and learning practices.”

After MOOCs, any such “consensus” is doomed. In fact, the University of New England’s Vice-Chancellor Jim Barber has called on the new Coalition government to allow for a “fully online” Australian university.

MOOC sceptics and the “hype cycle”

Yet sceptics still dismiss the “disruptive” MOOC. They say MOOCs have no sustainable business model, costing lots but earning little. They cite massive attrition rates: vast numbers enrol, but up to 95% drop out. They note that universities don’t offer degrees to students for completing a set of MOOCs; and that MOOC certificates aren’t recognised by employers the way degrees are.

These points broadly reflect recent experience. Free, world-class courses are on offer, but free degrees are not. MOOC certificates aren’t (yet) widely accepted as credit toward degrees, or as professional credentials. To sceptics, most MOOC users are intellectual tourists or institutional tyre-kickers; not serious students, intent on degrees and careers.

Up to a point, they’re right. Serious students don’t want MOOCs, they want HARVARDs: Highly Accessible (and Rigorous), Very Affordable (and Recognised) Degrees. What sceptics don’t yet quite get is how the rise of MOOCs promotes the spread of HARVARDs. And not just with scalable pedagogy: with MOOCs, leading universities boost the profile and legitimacy of online study generally.

So, will an “avalanche” of HARVARDs now swamp universities and send most of them broke? No. Can unis just stand firm until the online threat fades (like last time)? No.

More likely, discipline by discipline and market by market, HARVARDs will (loosely) follow a Gartner “Hype Cycle” of experimentation, adaptation and adoption.

A Gartner “Hype Cycle”. Source: Wikipedia

The University of Western Sydney’s Jonathan Tapson foresees a “very slow tsunami” unfolding as MOOCs travel this innovation path over the coming decade.

A Gartner “Hype Cycle” projection for MOOCs. Source: Jonathan Tapson, September 2013

Crunch the numbers or be crunched?

In the US market, MOOC-based HARVARDs have begun to appear. As the University of Western Australia’s David Glance notes, a new course at Georgia Tech has “disruptive” potential. It provides a fully online Masters in Computer Science for less than US$7000, while its campus-based equivalent costs $20,000+ for locals and $40,000+ for out-of-state (or international) students.

Let’s assume that in time, Georgia Tech enrols the 10,000 online students it seeks, and its Udacity partnership supports them well enough to complete. (The target here includes 6000 qualified to enter the three-year Masters directly, 2000 entering the Masters track if they do well in core subjects after pre-admission, and 2000 seeking Certificates by selecting from Masters subjects.)

On this scale, at say $6600 per Masters and $2200 per Certificate, revenue of $50m+ flows to the partnership. Georgia Tech’s 60% share would more than offset any campus-based losses, even if those 300 places all went unfilled. But note the wider market effect: at other uni campuses, Computer Science student numbers also drop. If they can’t tap new revenue, their business models will be crunched while Georgia Tech cleans up.

The end of an era?

Many students will welcome HARVARDs. So will many governments. In a speech on US college affordability in August, President Obama commended the Georgia Tech example as a way forward: “just as rigorous” yet for “a fraction of the cost”.

But for traditional universities, all this implies less public funding and/or lower fees per student, on average. And for many scholars, a sector typified by online HARVARDs is unthinkable. What are today’s markers of course quality, degree recognition and institutional status? Sandstone buildings, a research-teaching nexus, low student-faculty ratios, primarily face-to-face classes, high tuition prices, and extensive campus facilities.

In MOOC-enabled mass markets for higher learning, this elite-era cluster of features looks expensive. In places like Australia, offering online HARVARDs to local and offshore students will make sense for many.

Meanwhile, as universities adapt by blending online and campus-based study, MOOC-type pedagogy will require new mindsets and skillsets, as work roles and staff profiles change.

Faced with such prospects, many scholars will resist. San Jose State University philosophers have done so by refusing to teach a Harvard professor’s edX MOOC. Their main fears are that the trend will “replace professors”, “dismantle departments”, and create “financially stressed” universities.

From the other side, Princeton professor Mitchell Dunier has rejected an offer from Coursera to license his sociology MOOC to other universities, mainly for fear that the trend will let governments “cut funding”.

MOOC critics also warn of risks to student learning. But as online study grows ever more personalised, the claim gets ever harder to uphold. With the rise of HARVARDs, the phrase “cheap online course” may not imply “poor quality” or “low standards”. For many, it will just mean “better value”.

Then more and more students will vote with their fingers, not their feet.

Join the conversation

41 Comments sorted by

  1. Phillip Dawson

    Lecturer in Learning and Teaching at Monash University

    Card-carrying MOOC skeptic here. If I understand your argument correctly, it's that MOOC skeptics are right 'to a point' but the real change/benefit will come from cheap (postgraduate?) degrees that still cost thousands of dollars. Yes, the MOOC experiment will teach us which elements of learning, teaching and assessment scale at a factor of zero, and we will be able to use these learnings to find efficiencies across higher education - but is this really delivering on the promises the MOOC evangelists have been making?

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    1. Geoff Sharrock

      Program Director, LH Martin Institute at University of Melbourne

      In reply to Phillip Dawson

      Phillip, thanks for your comment. Yes, I think the real benefit will be in the spread of low cost yet high quality online study. So in my terms, not your standard MOOC as we've seen it (both fee-free and open to all comers without prequalification to enrol). What I'm calling HARVARDs are not necessarily MOOC-based, and I'm not subscribing to the more apocalyptic pronouncements of some MOOC evangelists. What MOOCs show is what's technically possible on a large scale, at a low unit cost. And they add legitimacy to online study generally, by demonstrating that the quality of teaching and learning can be comparable to that of more traditional modes of study.

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  2. Martin Davies

    Associate Professor in Higher Education at University of Melbourne

    I largely agree with the author. Here's my pot-boiler take on the phenomenon (or it was last year - now I'd be much more subtle): http://www.quadrant.org.au/magazine/issue/2012/12/can-universities-survive-the-digital-revolution

    This piece caught the attention of Alan Tudge, the MP charged with chairing the Coalition's working party on online learning. Interestingly, their report remains under wraps to date.

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  3. William Bennett

    Lecturer in Environmental Chemistry at Griffith University

    After having conversations with many students during the semester, I must say I fall firmly into the MOOC skeptic corner (although I acknowledge that my experience falls under the category of 'anecdotal evidence').

    The issue I have with moving to an online learning scenario is the lack of both teacher-student and student-student interaction. Part of attending university is about learning the content, sure, but what about the benefit of engaging with lecturers and tutors? I know many of my students…

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    1. Matthew Dunn

      Senior Lecturer in Public Health at Deakin University

      In reply to William Bennett

      I agree regarding the issue of interaction. My off campus students love the flexibility but the most common 'complaint' is that lack of sitting down with someone and being able to discuss ideas. Yes, there are technologies that can assist with that, but we have students who will drive an hour to meet with one or two others in a cafe just for that human interaction.

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    2. Jack Arnold

      Director

      In reply to William Bennett

      A relevant concern William, with which I agree.

      However, UNE overcame this problem with mandatory external residential schools so that ALL students could get the benefits of and from interacting with other students and staff on a face-to-face basis. Sadly, UNE made residential schools voluntary so that some graduates can even claim that Graduation Day was their only experience of UNE.

      Certainly external students brought a refreshing enthusiasm to education, learning and inspiration for teaching.

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    3. Geoff Sharrock

      Program Director, LH Martin Institute at University of Melbourne

      In reply to William Bennett

      William, thanks for your comment. I agree that some fields are far less amenable to fully online study than the computer science example given in the article. The other main issue you raise is how much interaction is needed, and to what extent it should be face to face. My question is: what value will students place on these things when confronted with the tuition price differences given in the Georgia Tech example? If you're choosing between $7000 and either $20,000+ or $40,000+ for the same course and qualification from the same well-regarded institution, do you then value these interactions at $13,000 to $33,000?

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    4. William Bennett

      Lecturer in Environmental Chemistry at Griffith University

      In reply to Geoff Sharrock

      I don't think it's about students placing a value on the face-to-face interaction, and then choosing either a MOOC or a traditional degree program based on cost - some skills simply cannot be taught online. Period. There is no way that TEQSA would or should allow science, engineering or medical practical skills to be taught online, for example.

      The focus here needs to remain on the quality of the educational experience we are providing to the students, not how universities or private education companies can make the most money for the least amount of effort. Can't we have at least one aspect of society that doesn't fall prey to the capitalist monster? Universities are already moving closer and closer to the harsh business models of private enterprise - the wide-scale introduction of MOOCs sound like they could be the icing on the proverbial cake.

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    5. Geoff Sharrock

      Program Director, LH Martin Institute at University of Melbourne

      In reply to William Bennett

      William, thanks for the further comment. I'd agree to an extent: there are some things that I can't imagine being taught online in the fields you mention, and as the article suggests, it's likely to be a discipline by discipline, market by market evolution. On the other hand, tomorrow there's a launch in Melbourne of the BEST network with the title Revolutionising Biomedical Education https://www.eiseverywhere.com/ehome/bestnetwork/141324
      The examples they outline there suggest to me that some of the things I wouldn't expect to be taught online can be, after all. Many disciplines will of course blend online and hands-on/face to face learning; but I remain unsure about where the online limitations really are.

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  4. Gavin Moodie
    Gavin Moodie is a Friend of The Conversation.

    Adjunct professor at RMIT University

    The current moocs seem no more likely to succeed than the 2000 versions: Oxford, Yale and Stanford’s AllLearn failed after an investment of $12 million from 2001 to 2006; Columbia University invested $15 million in its failed Fathom from 2001 to 2003; the UKeU failed after an investment of £50 from 2000 to 2004 and NYUonline failed after spending $25 million from 1999 to 2001.

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    1. Robbie Coombs
      Robbie Coombs is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Educational Technologist

      In reply to Gavin Moodie

      I respectfully disagree, Gavin. I think this goes back to the root of what it is that a prospective student wants from a Higher Education experience. Ultimately, they are after a job in their desired area of expertise. This is a generalisation of course, but I think it's the case for the majority of undergraduates. Face-to-face social interactions etc are all important to students, but they come with a high cost to the hip-pocket. I think The tipping point for MOOCs competing with Universities…

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    2. William Bennett

      Lecturer in Environmental Chemistry at Griffith University

      In reply to Gavin Moodie

      So who is really benefiting out of this push towards MOOCs? Maybe I'm being cynical, but I highly doubt that the rise of MOOCs is for the sole benefit of the students - is this primarily an economic move by some universities and private enterprise to make some cash? If they are, and it's at the expense of learning outcomes, I think we should all think long and hard about the level of support and encouragement we give this new trend...

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    3. Gavin Moodie
      Gavin Moodie is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Adjunct professor at RMIT University

      In reply to William Bennett

      I think that MIT and Harvard launched edX for the most laudable of motives. MIT has earlier commitment to open learning, having launched MIT OpenCourseWare in 2002.

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    4. Michael Hewitt-Gleeson

      Principal and Co-founder

      In reply to Gavin Moodie

      One explanation could be that moocs have evolved since 2000. Most of our moocs are fully funded by employers who recognise not only the credentials but more importantly, from their viewpoint, the increases in productivity and profits.

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    5. Gavin Moodie
      Gavin Moodie is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Adjunct professor at RMIT University

      In reply to Michael Hewitt-Gleeson

      As many others have pointed out, most of the current generation of moocs are mostly offering pedagogy and technology that has been pretty standard for over a decade now. As far as I can see, most moocs are funded by educational institutions and investors, not employers.

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    6. Michael Hewitt-Gleeson

      Principal and Co-founder

      In reply to Gavin Moodie

      That hasn't been my commercial experience. Many corporations in the US and Australia have been funding our moocs for over a decade.

      In any event, it would be a useful thing to test and measure. One could arrange for an employer/s to invest, say, $100,000 in campus education and $100,000 in mooc education and compare the ROI. Such a test could assist many employers in how to allocate their considerable investment in education and training.

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    7. Gavin Moodie
      Gavin Moodie is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Adjunct professor at RMIT University

      In reply to Michael Hewitt-Gleeson

      The prominent moocs are funded by educational institutions or venture capitalists: edX, Coursera, Udacity, Futurelearn, iversity, etc.

      Many corporates have internal training arms or bodies: Hamburger University, etc. As far as I know many of these blend face to face and resource based teaching-learning. Presumably they have considered but discarded fully online learning.

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    8. Michael Hewitt-Gleeson

      Principal and Co-founder

      In reply to Gavin Moodie

      Employers measure success differently than educational institutions. It may be that is why their support of the prominent moocs is low. For these moocs to gain corporate support they would need to be able to show a direct link to funds invested and a return on such an investment.

      Where we have been able to demonstrate such a link we have found that employers are willing to fund the moocs.

      For example we are currently discussing a mooc for the 4000 employees of a national Australian retailer. The mooc will run for one business quarter. There will be 33 lessons, one a day. The mooc will be focused on teaching metacognition.

      This year we have designed and delivered enterprise-wide moocs for a manufacturer, an NGO and a bank. All showing significant increases in the measured KPIs and a valuable ROI.

      There may be no philosophical or practical objection to moocs by employers. All they may need to see is a return on their investment.

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    9. Michael Hewitt-Gleeson

      Principal and Co-founder

      In reply to Jack Arnold

      Very much so, Jack. Many small businesses do and many do not. Certainly it is de rigeur for the big public corporations to allocate fixed percentages of profit for re-investment back into employees including their continuing education. In Australia I've seen where that amounts to hundreds of millions of dollars over the last decade (even if you don't count Twiggy Forrest's recent investment of $90 million, which I do) and billions of dollars a year from F500 corporations in the US. Few Ivy League…

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    10. Geoff Sharrock

      Program Director, LH Martin Institute at University of Melbourne

      In reply to Gavin Moodie

      Gavin, thanks for raising your points in this thread, which others are raising too. I think part of the answer to the 'why is this time different' question is that MOOCs allow scope for serious experimentation with emerging technologies that offer the prospect of improving student learning well beyond the one size fits all examples of earlier online attempts (not to mention the one size fits all aspects of many large face to face lecture formats).
      One report I didn't mention in the article is the…

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  5. Michael Hewitt-Gleeson

    Principal and Co-founder

    There are many ways for students to learn. The campus model is excellent but not enough. Of the 7 billion people who may want to learn only a very small number will attend a campus. As Geoff Sharrock points out, many students may prefer other options like MOOCs and HARVARDs.

    My own experience has been this http://schoolofthinking.org/

    SOT is not a university. We are established to focus on only one faculty: metacognition. So SOT changed the traditional campus model. If any traditional higher-learning institution had wanted to create a MOOC site to match the School of Thinking they would have first needed to publish 251 educational articles and then posted 1,191 authentic questions that had stimulated 47,591 thoughts and comments returned from their students … as of today.

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  6. qingcheng li

    UoM

    I think MOOCS do provide learners in every corver good channles to study at low cost via internet but it does not mean universities are in crisis.
    A person who is well edcucated not only depends on his knowledge learned by also depends on his development of personality which develops in the interactions and activities on university campuses.
    We can learn online but we can not join in discussions , experiments as well as face-to-face guidence, which are essential for future researches.
    MOOCS could be considered as a supplement or reference for both teachers and students, but not everything.Universities, so far, as the most effective instition, will go on exisiting and paly an important part .

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    1. Michelle Wood

      Tour Operator

      In reply to qingcheng li

      I agree that MOOCs are not a substitute for face to face learning, but can be a good adjunct. My experience as a student is perhaps unique here as I note most other comments in this thread appear to be from educators or mangers in the education sector. I am currently studying for a 'traditional' Master of Arts from an Australian university. As of today, I am also currently enrolled in 3 MOOCs through US universities. I am using these courses to learn about creativity, entrepeneurship and marketing…

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    2. Jack Arnold

      Director

      In reply to Michelle Wood

      Hi Michelle. My experience dates back to 2004/2005 with ANU Legal Workshop (ANULS). The online component was nearly as good as being present in the lecture theatre except that you were unable to contribute to the live discussion.

      The quality of the interaction between lecturers and students was very much an individual response. The Industrial Law course was all on-line and very addictive, the Family Law was exemplary while Ben's course was the genuine favourite for his wonderful interactions, wit and commentary.

      When compared to the online input at UNE .... chalk and cheese then.

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  7. Peter Bentley

    logged in via LinkedIn

    Great for learning, bad for business?

    As Roger Martin, recently departed dean of Toronto's Rotman school of business said: “Giving away your product? In what way is that a business?”

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    1. Geoff Sharrock

      Program Director, LH Martin Institute at University of Melbourne

      In reply to Peter Bentley

      Peter, thanks for your comment. Part of my argument in this article is that while MOOCs don't have a sustainable business model as they stand, HARVARDs such as the Georgia Tech example do, because they're not 'giving away their product' at all. From a business model point of view, the challenge MOOC type pedagogy poses for the traditional campus-based model is how to use its scalability to offer low cost programs to more students without killing demand for your high cost campus based programs. As…

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  8. Martin Davies

    Associate Professor in Higher Education at University of Melbourne

    "MOOC" or "Face-to-face" is, of course, a false dichotomy.

    I think MOOCs will increasingly provide the content -- on economic grounds -- and face-to-face requirements will be met elsewhere -- possibly on traditional campuses, but there are other possibilities. For example, small, nimble companies might turn up working alongside MOOCs operating essentially as educational brokers, with the job or curating content from various sources including organising educational events and authentic, subject-specific…

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    1. Michelle Wood

      Tour Operator

      In reply to Martin Davies

      I think this notion of democratisation of learning, as well as customisation of one's own learning experience is key to the popularity of MOOCs. In the early 2000s I enrolled in a B App Sci at an Australian university. Although I was interested in and loved science, I also loved working with people and was interested in community engagement. There was no course that offered me some of each. I ended up doing a co-major in public relations, which wasn't the perfect fit, but was pretty close. I subsequently spent 10 years working in the public sector, where I used my science/public relations learnings together almost every day.
      I was recently talking to an academic about the need I perceive for cross-disciplinary courses, particularly in the sciences and she told me she had pitched just such a course to managers in the science faculty at the institution where she teaches with no luck. Apparently the study of science shouldn't be 'watered down'

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    2. Michelle Wood

      Tour Operator

      In reply to Michelle Wood

      Wasn't finished, hit 'post' by mistake...
      As I was saying, many in the academic hierarchy don't want pure sciences adulterated with potentially useful elements of study such as communication skills.
      My feeling is that gen Y (and others such as myself) will not be content with the inflexible curricula and teaching methods of the big tertiary institutions, and will increasingly turn to other modes of education to meet their needs.
      In my experience, MOOC participants are forming their own local cohorts by meeting up in person where there are a number in the sme geographic location, holding Google hangouts etc. Lecturers in these courses also often hold 'office hours' sessions where they get on-line to interact with students. Where there's a will, there's a way.
      And Martin, as a tour operator, I love your vision of study tours to supplement the on-line learning experience.

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  9. Jack Arnold

    Director

    Thank you for an interesting article Geoff. Really, I don't quite understand what all the fuss is about.

    The University of New England pioneered Distance Education from 1955 and has provided many of the graduates who have built now competing systems. Indeed, the UK Open University came to Armidale NSW in the early 70s to learn how to run a distance learning programme. Furthermore, the present UNE VC is a great advocate for on-line teaching.

    However, as a survivor of both internal and external teaching systems both before and after the Internet, how does the on-line model create the interpersonal interactions that compose an important part of learning? Perhaps the pioneering work by the Legal Workshop staff at ANU may be a pointer. Certainly it was exciting.

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  10. Alan Stewart

    Professional Conversationalist at Multimind Solutions

    The question of how universities adapt to changing opportunities, including technological, may be thought of as their perceived role(s) in society.

    In my opinion this is linked to how we humans address issues related to this seminal comment:

    “Our disconnection from the natural world and one another is built into the foundation of civilization: into science, religion, money, technology, medicine, and education as we know them. As a result, each of these institutions faces a grave and growing…

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  11. Michael Hewitt-Gleeson

    Principal and Co-founder

    moocs and harvards.

    now there are at least two options for learners and their employers.

    harvards are about recognised degrees.

    moocs are about open online courses.

    Employers and learners can now choose from virtuosity via moocs or recognition via harvards.

    For example, a harvard might offer you a recognised marketing degree.

    A mooc might offer you selling, innovation or leadership skills and even virtuosity and an increase in KPIs..

    For some employers the harvard option might seem more productive.

    For other employers, the mooc might be a better choice.

    It will be interesting to see how these two options--moocs and harvards-evolve over the next decade or so.

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    1. Geoff Sharrock

      Program Director, LH Martin Institute at University of Melbourne

      In reply to Michael Hewitt-Gleeson

      Michael, thanks for your comments. I agree that from an employer point of view, there will be a need for formal qualifications in some cases and very specific skills or knowledge in others, credentialed or not.
      More generally, I think we’ll see fifty shades of blended learning in both the diploma/degree and professional development domains, from small scale to massive, as providers tailor their offerings to different market segments.
      It's happening at the institute I work for currently. There…

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  12. Steve Mackay

    Dean

    Thanks for an illuminating article, Geoff - very thought provoking and easy to read.

    However, I would suggest that the 'devil is in the detail'. We are an engineering college based in Perth providing totally online diplomas and advanced diplomas over two to three years with a significant growth rate - over 1400 students on our two year programs and over 60% from overseas. However, after extensive (and bruising !) research over a decade, we have taken a totally different tack to the typical online…

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    1. Geoff Sharrock

      Program Director, LH Martin Institute at University of Melbourne

      In reply to Steve Mackay

      Steve, thanks for the detailed example you outline. I would agree that the devil is in the detail. The growth of sustainable HARVARDs will be market by market, discipline by discipline, with lots of trial and error. Not all ventures or courses will make it. Your take is very similar to mine. It fits with the idea that in future we'll see '50 shades of blended learning' in tertiary education in the campus and online spaces, from an ever more diverse set of course providers.

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    2. Steve Mackay

      Dean

      In reply to Geoff Sharrock

      Sadly, traditional classroom training and education is evaporating, Geoff as it had a lot to offer especially from a social aspect.

      But everyone is inexorably moving online.

      I agree that there will subtle variations and the use of the term learning will encompass classroom and online in a seamless way. I would argue (from observing my daughter's learning activities in her second year at UWA); that she (and her peers) don't bother to attend lectures as they can watch them online in a more congenial…

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    3. Geoff Sharrock

      Program Director, LH Martin Institute at University of Melbourne

      In reply to Steve Mackay

      Steve, I agree on the 'shovelware' point, and that whatever the business model, quality of learning will remain critical. Many reports on MOOCs emphasise that while their sheer scale and low cost to students is what captures the headlines, the real innovation potential is in reinventing pedagogy for the online space. The prospect is that even a very large cohort of learners can get more in the way of peer interaction and personalised attention online, than if they went along to a traditional lecture, then a traditional tutorial on campus. Which is not to say that the learner support technologies offered with MOOC platforms are in full use. I suspect that the existing capabilities of many university Learning Management Systems are not in full use with campus-based 'blended' programs either.

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