sue watling


At first it’s difficult to tell if EPIC 2020 is a promotion of MOOCs or a warning. Ultimately it may be both.  The message is represent a one way direction with irreversible impact on higher education as we know it.  EPIC (Evolving Personal Information Construct) 2020 offers a vision of a future where academia is no longer the gatekeeper of knowledge, tuition obsolete and degrees irrelevant. The reason is the MOOC.  The shift has already begun with MOOC giants Udacity, Khan Academy, Coursera, MITX and TedEd supported by Mozilla Open Badges as alternatives to accreditation.

Like conspiracy theories the video offers a powerful argument but via a limited view of educational transformation, one which only sells a single side of the story. Bill Sams is behind EPIC 2020 and Tipping Point 2012 its partner video. Sams is a Commissioner on the eTech Ohio Commission and an Executive in Residence at Ohio University. He operates a locked down Twitter account but has publicly commented on the online universities blog saying ‘My objective in producing EPIC was to create a piece that would cause people to consider and discuss that there are dramatic alternatives to the traditional education system’

‘Traditional’ education is continually facing alternatives; not least digital technologies and affordances. The move to Open Educational Resources (OER) through the open education movement is one such inevitable product of the internet. The rationale for OER is strong; in particular enabling students to make appropriate choices of HEI as well as supporting the widening participation and life long learning agendas.  MOOCs have been tried but are less tested.

I’ve been engaging in MOOC behaviours for a few months; initially thinking it was a bubble ready to burst but also watching the increase in MOOC collaborations become media headlines. Currently on Week 4 of OLDsMOOC, I’m confident (at the present time) there is more wrong with MOOCs than right. They are massive, open and online but with no ‘one size fits all model’ they can only suit some types of learning and student preferences better than others.

What MOOCs are good at is stimulating debate around the wider issues of learning design and the role of higher education in the 21st century. It’s time to be more critical about MOOCs, and some of the possible drivers behind the MOOCing phenomena. EPIC 2020 and Tipping Point 2012 offer useful places for these debates to begin.

 



1 Comment so far

  1.    Dave K on February 4, 2013 1:14 pm      

    Hi Sue, thanks for posting this.
    I think MOOCs might have the scary potential of the video -except that increasing what is really free globally doesn’t seem to match with global capitalism as I’ve witnessed it -so there seems to be too little role for profit and competition in their scare-story. It also seems to have nothing to say about research and education. As you say -a limited and conspiracy-therory account -but as the maker says; food for thought.

    I’m more sanguine about the medium-term potential for MOOCs (in the right place). I think they might have a real role to play in negotiating a future of de-investment in Arts & Humanities H.E. Currently, this is not an area with much american investigation but if you think about a MOOC for ‘taking gaming seriously as an academic field’ I think you can most easily see some of the potential overlap between student desire and the traditional areas of Humanities. I think that might be able to very happily encompass more traditional areas of Humanities and -with a different balance, the Arts. I doubt whether it will happen in moribund England though -perhaps it’s something the more adventurous Europeans might steal a march upon us all with?

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