This is an essay I’ve posted as part of a discussion on „Spatial-organizational strategies for serving the world’s (urban) majority“ in Globalizing Higher Education and Research for the ‘Knowledge Economy‘ I’ve included the replies as well. The Coursera course was a joint development of the University of Wisconsin Madison and the University of Bristol and all resources are available as an archive.
In order to serve the world’s population better as a destination for high-quality education most higher ed institutions and organisations have to be getting serious about online learning. We need to reach learners wherever they are – independent of their physical location. And we’re not talking about eLearning – we’re talking about social, intercultural and highly individual learning experiences that in some cases lead to a Master’s Degree, in others to mastering a new skill or to acquire a specific qualification.
Here are some reasons for getting serious about online learning:
- A next-generation kind of online learning which takes advantage of the technological developments of the recent past offers valuable opportunities to learners worldwide
- intercultural social collaboration without having to travel around the globe
- flexible schedules to serve lifelong learners, supporting work-life-balance
- offering high-level educational resources to the economically, physically or politically challenged
- the Generation Y (Millenials – born after 1981) is expecting all of the above
I’ll discuss four different aspects/areas:
- Massive Collaborative Open Online Learning
- Corporate Online Universities
- Serving Lifelong learners – the rise of the part-time MBA
- MOOCs and networked campuses for resource-constrained or rural universities
1) Massive Collaborative Open Online Learning
Coursera with over 100 universities from all over the world, Udemy with 16.000+ online courses, Udacity, iversity.org, Khan Academy, OpenUniversity, Futurelearn and edX –they all show the way in that they go out to the learners, wherever they are instead of requiring them to come to a physical place.
This is not only a US or UK phenomenon; Lecturio.de in Germany – where I live – offers flat-rates for medicinal or law students bundling several courses that lead to degrees and/or credit points at accredited universities and colleges. iversity.org, based in Berlin, started offering high-level MOOCs with international educators and 10.000 students enrolling in courses that don’t even offer credits. Spain is in the lead of MOOC providers in Europe (although I don’t know why – do you?). There is a growing number and a need for next generation MOOCs.
By next generation MOOC I refer to the next generation of online learning, incorporating the impact power of xMOOCs with the connectivist and constructivist didactical design of cMOOCs with recent research in neurosciences on learning processes – combining it with all the empirical experiences we and other early adopters have had with this kind of learning.
Other European examples:
France: FUN, MOOC platform by french Ministère de l’enseignement supérieur et de la recherche.
Italy: Uninettuno OpenupEd
More information about European Online Learning platforms: Open Education Europa
2) Corporate Campus: Online Universities for employees
Additionally, there’s a trend towards high-quality educational programs enforced and facilitated by corporations using the MOOC approach
- to attract future high potentials as a skilled workforce for the ever-changing dynamic markets ahead
- to nurture their future workforce and stifle innovation / innovative thinking by offering far more dynamic and praxis-relevant content to learners than the slow-moving HEIs Examples:
- Udemy already offers with UFO a „corporate university in a box“: a white label platform for companies where they can build their own online academies with or without filled catalogues of online courses
- Coursera and Udacity offer subscription-based plans for companies of all sizes to facilitate their in-house L & D needs
- adidas has built a 21st-century online campus with MOOCs (Adidas Group Learning Campus) and Deutsche Telekom is trying to find answers with their www.Shareground.net initiative
3) Serving Lifelong Learners – rise of the part-time MBA
There’s another development that has to do with the changing demographics and faster changing (digital and global) world and markets: the lifelong learners need to be served and individuals, as well as corporations worldwide, begin to see innovative online courses with a connected design as a solution to their learning needs in different phases of their (work-) life.
The list of part-time Master programmes for full-time working executives is growing every day (here’s a US ranking of part-time MBA’s) and more people are interested in specialized and individualized master programmes
Older students prefer taking online classes from home and need more flexible schedules to cater to family needs.
4) MOOCs and networked campuses for resource-constrained or „far from hot-spots“ universities:
- Advanced integrated second generation MOOCs will be one solution for resource constrained universities to attract and serve students globally without having to provide expensive campuses in urban areas
- Low-cost satellite campuses (see a great post on this subject by Donnalee Donaldson) in different hubs/hot spots of the world like New York, London, Berlin, Shanghai, Tokyo, Barcelona or San Francisco could extend their reach even more if they offered complete Bachelor/Master degree courses online with short sessions in these physical campuses for live collaboration experiences, activities and exams in person (Blended Learning)
- once they moved serious parts of their formal educational program online they can expand their reach even further by building a networked campus with other smaller HEIs in order to share resources and students. An example for this is the network of small universities „L’université Lorraine“ in Lorraine, France: See the post of Jonathan Pierrell
To incorporate and offer collaborative, networked online learning experiences with a diverse intercultural structure is the future – for universities as well as for corporations. To not only serve an urban majority of the population but also the people who otherwise have no access to high-level education or intercultural exchange for geographic, economic or political reasons.
Yes online learning is a way of the future. Nevertheless, I do have questions. I am certainly enjoying this course, much more than I thought I would.
Firstly, all the material caters for the typical English speaker, I have no problem navigating my way around the site – it’s great! However, what if I didn’t understand or indeed fully understand English? How could I access this information, how could I navigate my way around this site? The language of the internet is English and it is people with this knowledge who benefit most.
Also, online learning is great for people who have good bandwidth. Good bandwidth in many parts of the world costs money. If I can’t afford good bandwidth I am excluded from or it will be difficult for me to access online education.
Oh yes, I have my own laptop so I can interact with this material any time, any place. This laptop was not cheap and if I couldn’t afford this laptop then again my access would be restricted.
Yes, the way we are learning is changing and it is really exciting but at the end of the day it seems that it is still the same people who are denied access. Collaborative approaches as you mention are crucial, but I believe that collaborative approaches with a conscience are the future.
I would like to see credentialing by online moocs on par with brick-and-mortar institutions, without an extravagant increase in price to the learner, which would defeat the purpose of making learning more accessible to more of the world’s population.