It has been two weeks since my last post and much has happened around the industry. Consumers were dazzled with the introduction of the 3Doodler, a pen that allows its users to create 3D-printed works with ease and bypassed its Kickstarter benchmark within a few hours. And it really points to the potential of crowdfunding. Not only was the internet excited for the pen, but our current state of funding allows creators to show off their project without having to manage a huge ad campaign.
In more local news, CoCo announced it was going to partner with Google, and together they will host a two-year schedule of events that will concentrate on entrepreneurship in Minnesota in an attempt to boost interest in the industry. This comes after Google announced support for the STEP-UP jobs program, and after Minnesota’s startup scene has witnessed some tremendous growth.
Perhaps the biggest news of note is the U of M’s decision to partner with Coursera. So far, five U of M professors have signed up to create courses on the MOOC platform. The U is one of 29 new universities to offer courses over the platform, and Coursera is not the only online education outfit to see growth.
edX also announced the addition of six schools outside the U.S. Launched by Harvard and MIT, edX is a nonprofit with a user base primarily outside the U.S. So far it has 12 institutions submitting coursework to the site. Which prompts the question: how far will MOOCs be integrated in our education ecosystem.
MOOCs and the ever-changing education landscape
The philosophy behind education has stayed the same for centuries. Students meet in a room, teachers teach, and everyone’s happy. However, with technological innovation the education landscape has stayed stagnant.
While there is online integration being used, most classes still rely on a lecture-based model. As I delved into this issue with a colleague, we got wrapped up into why this might be occurring and came up with only one solution: education has become big business.
Education as big business and a job creator
Working in the industry it’s obvious that there is a machine driving education. From my standpoint, it would be the state. States capitalize on education in a variety of ways. For example, the U of M boasts the largest campus of any public campus in the nation. I wonder how much property tax that translates into the for state of Minnesota?
Education also attracts talent to your state. If you have a school with a good curriculum, you can guarantee companies will set up shop and hand select employees from a rich student pool. Look at 3M, Medtronic, Cargill and some obvious others. Would these companies be here if Minnesota didn’t offer significant applicants to there workforce? Probably not.
The threat of online education, and more openly free online education, is it eliminates revenue to the state. Not only that, it would drastically limit the amount of paid professionals that could teach students. Imagine what would happen to professors if they only had to broadcast lectures online? You would not need so many. You could just record and have students watch with ease. No scheduling and less of a time commitment.
Biggest challenge to full integration
Perhaps the biggest challenge for MOOCs is the ability to track students. How would you know if someone was taking the test and wasn’t having a friend do it? What about homework? How could you prevent cheating?
These are some questions to ask when looking into MOOCs and their future. As big of an idea as MOOCs are, they can be somewhat blurry when it comes to these simple questions. There has not been a huge outcry of cheating, but definitely some. Imagine how big of a deal it would become if MOOCs had credit equivalency. It would be a disaster in its current form.
Disruption as a constant battle
As with news media, the education industry is being disrupted. While not to the full extent media is, I believe it will be in the following 2-4 years. Education as it stands now is not sustainable. Financial aid is the easiest loan to get, and constantly becoming the hardest to pay off. This is why we see tuition rise annually.
Platforms such as Coursera and edX offer a way out of these loans, but are not seen to be as valuable as a university education. Coursera has been in talks to make some courses equivalent, but to really dig into the issue some work needs to be done on the cheating front and what it could mean for the education industry as a whole.
Older practitioners will not enjoy a new model, but it has to be realized if we want people to compete on a fair level. The system as it is now gives advantage to people with more money, plain and simple. MOOCs offer a shining light away from an outdated philosophy, but there are huge hurdles to overcome.
With the right people looking into the situation we could see an entirely different landscape emerge in the education industry. However, the business behind higher education will make it complicated for full integration, and I cannot see that happening for a very long time.