The Cognitive Infrastructure Built by the MOOC Bubble

Why massively open online courses will ultimately benefit all of higher ed.

December 12, 2013

Long after the MOOC providers pivot to whatever sustainable business model will come next, we will be enjoying the benefits of the infrastructure that was built to support this particular bubble.

This infrastructure is not like that of previous bubbles. It is not fiber (bandwidth) and it is not newly cheap servers, open source databases, and flexible programming languages.   

This will not be a physical or technological infrastructure, as was built in the dot-com bubble (think YouTube, MySQL, cheap cloud storage etc.).  

The infrastructure left behind from the MOOC bubble will be cognitive.

It will be a set of ideas and conclusions about the potential to improve teaching and learning with technology.

It will be a change in how we think about teaching and learning.

The legacy of the MOOC bubble will be the widespread acceptance that passive learning is now a commodity, no more valuable than long distance phone minutes.

The large lecture course, an institution that has endured for decades if not centuries almost completely untouched (unless you count PowerPoint - which many see as a step backwards), will forever be altered.

The days of students sitting passively in their seats, copying down notes from the instructor and than parroting back answers in multiple choice exams, are numbered and will not return.

Discussions of how to best invest in improving teaching and learning now pervade every part of the academy.   

MOOCs have brought teaching into the light, catalyzing an awareness outside of our academic technology and traditional online learning community around the intersection of pedagogy and technology.  

What has been so frustrating to our traditional online learning community, that MOOCs have co-opted and dominated the discussion of online learning, will prove to be our greatest boon.  

Faculty and administrators who previous to MOOCs had never given much thought to new models of technology-enabled learning  (and may have never heard of learning outcomes or formative assessment), are now familiar with the potential and the language of learning design.  (And the benefits of partnering with learning designers and other educational professionals in the course design and delivery process).

That higher ed will different and better in the future (especially when it comes to teaching and learning), is at least partially the happy result of today’s MOOC bubble.

How has the conversation around teaching and learning changed on your campus?

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Joshua Kim

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