Is Learning to Learn From MOOCs a Teachable Skill?

Five assertions from Joshua Kim.

February 26, 2018

Which of these five assertions would you dispute?

Assertion No. 1: Those who do well in the workplace of tomorrow will be continuous learners, constantly upgrading their knowledge, skills and (perhaps) credentials.

Assertion No. 2: The old model of discrete and separate life course stages of education and work is eroding. The future will be one where education and work are intermingled, as skills need constant upgrading.

Assertion No. 3: The most likely method that adult working professionals will continuously upgrade their skills (and perhaps credentials) is through participation in online and low-residency education.

So far, so good. Right?

You may quibble with some of the language of the assertions above. Perhaps put more emphasis on some points. But over all, it is hard to dispute the conclusion that education will be lifelong, and that adult working professionals (often with families) will prefer the flexibility of online learning.

Now for the MOOC assertions.

Assertion No. 4: Online education at scale -- what we used to call MOOCs -- will constitute an ever larger slice of the lifelong learning pie. This sort of online learning is characterized by low costs, low faculty presence (hence the low costs) and large numbers of participants.

Assertion No. 5: Having the ability to successfully learn and demonstrate new knowledge and skills through participation in scaled online education will be a significant predictor of individual career success.

What do you think?

Open online learning at scale is not going to go away. In fact, I expect that scaled online learning opportunities will continue to grow. This will occur as providing open online education becomes a normal platform in any educational outreach activities.

An ever greater number of organizations beyond colleges and universities, from companies to nonprofits to media outlets, will create and run open online courses.

The spread of microcredentials, such edX’s MicroMasters, will drive the growth of open online education at scale.

If this is how the future will unfold -- see assertions No. 1 through No. 4 above - then shouldn’t we be thinking about how to prepare today’s students for tomorrow’s work force?

Shouldn’t we be teaching them how to learn from MOOCs?

We know that those learners who thrive in open online courses are the best prepared and the most motivated. Success in an open online course requires independence and discipline.

Unlike in traditional online education, those teaching MOOCs are unable to build personal relationships with their students. Personal coaching and mentorship are essential for many students to succeed.

The question is, can those attributes that are critical for succeeding in an open online educational environment be taught?

Can a case be made that an effective strategy to give our students the tools for lifetime economic success and career options is that of teaching them how to learn in a MOOC?

Should we be using some of the small-scale/relationship-based educational opportunities that we have with students to teach them skills to thrive in an open online learning knowledge economy?

Should MOOC learning become the subject of teaching?

Can we imagine building traditional courses around existing MOOCs, where the goal is not content or subject mastery, but the development of open online learning skills?

Is learning how to learn from MOOCs a teachable skill?


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