Mook (noun \ˈmük\): an insignificant or foolish person
A co-worker asked me the other day for my thoughts about the MOOC’s (massive open online courses). I gave a very presidential reply. But really, I just thought that MOOC’s are definitely not run by a bunch of mooks.
These organizations will profoundly change the face of higher education over the next few years. However, the real question is “Is this a new paradigm or a short-lived Band-Aid measure to address our concerns over cost and effectiveness? Will we discover that MOOC’s are the 8-track tape of educational pedagogy?” Sorry that was actually two questions – but they are related to the BIG question. What is happening?
A few thoughts:
1. Society is changing and our survival skills are changing too.
A colleague complained that students were doing simple addition in her class with calculators. That’s bad right? Or is it? Great granddad didn’t have a lot of math; just enough to count bushels of corn and compute the fair price at the co-op. It was more complex when I was a boy, I needed to crack the numbers out by hand; until I got my first Texas Instruments. Now we seem to be moving to a society where learning to access information quickly and accurately is more important than creating the information independently. Content is expanding on the internet in exponential ways. Being speedy in accessing someone else’s research may be more important for the vast majority of us than having the ability to process numbers through a quadratic equation.
How will education have to change to meet this change in society and what will make someone successful?
2. Wikipedia is now widely accepted as the largest and most accurate encyclopedia on the planet. Things are incorrect from time to time, but the speed at which it is corrected is faster than any print encyclopedia could hope to replicate. Is there any reason to assume that Wiki-Universities (in which peers teach each other) will be any different? A course is essentially completed once a single MOOC has recorded the questions and responses of the first cohort of 160,000 people. At that point, another individual could join the course asynchronously using the recorded FAQ’s and proceed through the course. The course could have as many start dates as your servers could handle. Students (one or a million) could start a course at any time, identify their own individualized terminal course competencies and proceed through the course to the realization of their own goals. Employers could process the voluminous terminal course competencies (exam question by exam question) prior to making a job or salary offer. Some employers might even create the exams. Depending on your results, you might be authorized to balance your own checkbook, manage a small department or be offered a job at Deloitte.
What will the role of the faculty member be in a Wiki-world? Could the “faculty senate” for the world’s largest university be comprised of a single 30 year old computer programmer/debugger and a set of 25 year old customer service agents?
3. This offers the opportunity for true democratization of the world economy. Suddenly a tribesman with a $100 laptop, a hand crank generator and an internet connection can compete with a Harvard graduate (the gods must be crazy). The ability for some types of jobs to be remote makes it more likely that some companies eventually will expand outsourcing to individuals around the globe.
How will companies respond to the challenges of wanting the very best when they may not be local? Are governments ready to deal with this type if disbursed workforce with the challenges offered in support and taxation?
I might make it to retirement before the BIG question is really confronting us but I doubt it.
MOOC’s have real challenges: knowing who is really taking the test; developing critical thinking skills in additional to technical competencies; financing challenges when the ability to pay salaries may not have materialized yet. But these are not a bunch of mooks. The MOOC’s will affect the future. I am just not totally sure what the future looks like yet.