Friday, January 09, 2015

Might #MOOCs still be disruptive #Futurelearn

Today I am liveblogging some sessions at the Futurelearn Academic Network (FLAN) meeting in Edinburgh (the research network to do with Futurelearn, the MOOC platform). It is livestreaming at
The day started withg a a talk Might MOOCs still be disruptive given by Jeff Haywood. He noted that we have “mentally domesticated” MOOCs and they are in fact no longer seen as risky. For example, they are talked about as channels for paid student recruitment. Haywood looked at why MOOCs were thought of as disruptive, based on the idea of “disruptive innovation”, as conceptualised by Clayton Christensen (with businesses/products moving from a low to a prominent position, upsetting the market structure). Haywood transferred this concept to the higher education sector. He felt that because the “disruptive” word is being used (my word here) indiscriminately (even when things were not actually that disruptive) actual disruption might be masked. In terms of WHAT could be disrupted it includes types of recruitment (undergrad etc.) online/distance, short courses, pricing, “bundling”. In terms of WHEN he thought about sequencing e.g. postgrad might be more disrupted than undergrad education. In terms of by WHOM – this includes universities who rethink their strategies.
Haywood felt that there were interlocking features which led to stability (or sluggishness, to see it negatively) e.g. interlocked curricula, physical estate, durability of existing pedagogies, that risk of action by an individual university is high. He referenced Robert Zemsky’s Checklist for change who identified academics who think they will “sit it out” rather than opting for risking change. He also cited William Bowen complaining that technology hasn’t been used to improve productivity in higher education, but rather “gilding the lily” (improvinhg oputput).
Haywood identified that “MOOC” is used in different ways e.g. a concept (for online learning; for open learning); a political instrument; a specific educational process. Referring to the report by Bayne and Ross which did identify some disruptive features, for example “teacher as code” (i.e. things happening online without teacher presence).
Originally MOOCs were very North American, but now 45% of Coursera partners are non-US, Futurelearn (now a year old) has 18% non UK and 82% UK, China is investing in MOOCs (Chinese language) etc. so there is significant imapct worldwide.
Looking at higher education trends, Haywood noted the increasing number of part time undergraduates in the UK (23%), although there are not figures for the % distance learners. In the USA there is a larger % (sorry, didn’t catch the details) and potential changes in legislation which could make less traditional forms of education easier to credit. In the USA and UK there is a lot of discussion and some action around competence based education, so more focus on skills (including higher order ones) and on more flexibility in the time, pace and place of learning and assessment.
Haywood moved on to discuss the quest for “globally recognised metrics of graduate learning” and its political interest. He concluded by summarising key points which my fingers weren't quick enough to capture – they are listed on the slide at the start of this blog entry (click it to see a bigger size).

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