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walden student 1

Hi,

This article was very interesting becuase I want to work with online education when I complete my doctoral degree and I am completing a thesis on online education so I like to stay current with the trends. I could not agree more that people will take a course that is free just to learn a new skill on their own time but this is a trend that will not last a long time becuase of the demandes of life. People need and make time for what is most important such as taking a course that gives credit to help someone stay certified or keep a job.

Kelly K.

What an interesting concept. While I agree with and appreciate all comments to date, I am also thinking of this technology and concept in a different way.

I see potential here for prepatory classes, or as I like to call them "bridge" courses. Those needing to improve upon math, science, reading, or english skills would be able to do so at little to no cost. The certificate of completion could be shown, at which time a person would be eligible for enrollment.

This could also be a format for repeating a failed course. Although cost is a motivation for non-failure, we have all experienced or heard from others about "that one tough course." This may negate the desire to abandon a discipline because of one course, and negate the need to extend years in school or financial aid because of repeating a course. Of course, there would be lots to think about with this concept, such parameters of student enrollment, academic probation, GPA and credit, etc.

Christian College

Opportunity is available to people via online education. Education can reach any part of the world . Edx is a step forward !

Mick Raike

Thank you for a very interesting article. I too believe that the field of higher education will see more "high-ended" universities offer on-line classes. However, I remember the days of the diploma mills where for a small amount of money one could become certified in just about anything. My question, therefore: Will schools like Harvard and MIT be willing to "cheapen" their brand name so that a po' boy like me can claim that he took a class at Harvard? Or, will they return to their elitist status and shrug off the online experience as just a novelty of the times?

Lloyd comments: good question indeed. That is exactly the reason many have talked about creating a "second brand" - less expensive, fewer bells and whistles, but still having a value proposition. Not easy to do, however.

Tom Mason

Another possible unintended consequence of this effort may be to dissuade some students from attempting higher education at all.
Low-SES students from poor preparatory backgrounds might click into a calculus course only to see symbols and formulas they could not imagine are within their ken. While a few might feel challenged to conquer this bit of knowledge, those who have experienced social disorganization and the Pygmalion effect of naysayers, are much more likely (in my view) to rationalize a reason not to attempt higher learning.


P.S. Sharon must be an English professor. Sharon, this is not a dissertation -- it's a blog...

Sharon Stevenson

Dr. Armstrong, with all due respect to your accomplishments, I urge you to be a bit more careful in your posts. I suggest you simply reread them outloud to catch errors which for your standing are really unacceptable and a bad example for those of your students who read them. That said...

"…this has lead [LED] numerous commentators to…"

…a very nominal cost for e.g. testing" - which as is, reads, "for for example". "e.g." does mean "for example." so you don't need an extra "for." Also normally, e.g. is set off with commas before and after.

…from the organization - No period?

(e.g engineering) - now you do not put in a second dot, i.e., period. Huh?

I'm sure this is simple carelessness, which can be easily rectified. The article itself, was thought-provoking. The great challenge is to seek to make more knowledge "stick" for the learner's profitable present use and for providing a future underpinning for more advanced learning, no?

Erin Keefe

Lloyd,
I have enjoyed reading your blog. I recall several years ago when MIT began offering their free online classes. To hear they are still providing this opportunity with a high level of completion speaks to the draw of "recreational education". Do you truly foresee institutions accepting certificates of completion from these courses for credit towards degree completion in the future?

Lloyd responds: thanks for your comments and question. The earlier MIT offerings were not courses per se, but rather notes, readings, etc. that could be used as the user wanted. MITx will be packaging everything as a course, with graded homework, exams, etc.that must be successfully completed in order to get an MITx certificate. "Recreational" then takes on a different meaning with respect to this generation of offerings from MIT. I don't expect that other colleges will accept these certificates for transfer credit at this time - however, when it becomes more common to award credit for knowledge obtained elsewhere (e.g. the practices of WGU), such a certificate could possibly demonstrate desired learning. I think it much more likely that employers will begin to weigh MITx certificates favorably when compared to transcripts describing courses from significantly lower ranked programs. As I said in this post, I don't think the same will happen for edX certificates.

Keith Hampson

Lloyd – Thanks for this. Very interesting.

I’d like to touch on one aspect of this topic.

As you know, embedded in the responses to the announcements from Harvard and MIT is the assumption that the digital educational materials made available through these open content initiatives and open courseware are of value because they come from highly selective institutions. Certainly, the interest of the press to these initiatives would be far more subdued had they come from Chicago State University or the University of North Dakota. Apparently, highly selective institutions EQUAL high quality digital educational materials.

I’ve not seen any research that evaluates the quality of open digital materials coming from different types of institutions. However, I think it is still fair (and hopefully useful) to question the assumption that highly selective institutions are somehow better able, or more motivated, to produce high quality open content.

First, the development of digital education materials is more closely aligned to teaching than it is research. And highly selective institutions like MIT earn their status through their focus on research. The faculty members hired by these institutions bases their value – both in terms of the labour market and personal - on their ability to attract research funds and conduct and publish research, not to teach. This doesn’t mean that there aren’t a number of great teachers within these institutions, but in all analyses, it’s useful to “follow the money”.

Motivation is also a factor. MIT and Harvard are not enacting this initiative in order to grow their markets, expand revenue, or reduce their costs. This is not being done so that the institutions might survive, as might be the case at other, less well-funded institutions. Growth is not an issue for either institution. In fact, maintaining exclusivity is “Job Number One”.

While this initiative may generate some benefits for their own students, the motivation is social and reputational. They are “giving away” their wares because they can afford to, and because philanthropy supports the brand. It’s not insignificant that they are doing this at a time when colleges are under attack.

If our interest is in finding the business models that are most likely to support increased quality at the best price, I’m not sure that this philanthropic model, coming from institutions with little need to truly innovate, and that have a deeply vested interest in the status quo, will produce the best outcomes.

Lloyd comments: Really excellent comment, Keith. I agree with all of your points.

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