The reality is MOOCs can be artistically and technically fascinating and can have terrific pedagogical advantages.
I have been a fan of using online technology to help others learn for a very long time but I also have been, in the same measure, a fan of making sure that mentorship and coaching be a part of everything that we do, even if it also uses digital technology to do it.
I think the problem is a much more complex one which means that it’s easy to attack isolated things and events and initiatives without taking into account the much larger economy that needs to also be considered (and changed).
The truth is that the way we learn hasn’t changed all that much for many, many years and yet the opportunities that we have to learn differently have changed significantly and at such a fast pace that we all are generally ill-equipped to think about it rightly (or fairly).
But perhaps the most important thing that I would have loved get more attention was this:
But with their increasing diversity and quality, what MOOCs offer students—those enrolled in colleges and those not—is choice. Students can sample a wealth of subjects and classes, and if they are not sparked, move on.
Choice is a powerful ally for the individual learner and something that we all can appreciate more as we get older and realize that the amount of time and energy and resources that we natively have are much smaller in degree and scale than we imagine, scarily-so.
If we could turn the clock back a few notches and choose more wisely the things that we could have invested our precious few moments of life in, we all would make different decisions.
MOOCs allow this choice by default which allows younger (and older) folks to not just encounter a wider variety of subject matter but, as a natural consequence, interface with things that interest them and that further self-discovery faster.
At the heart of learning for many of us is an implicit and underlying goal of simply knowing more about who we are, what we’re supposed to do, and why we are here on planet earth. To do that we need to encounter, test, hypothesize, and experience as much as we possibly can and MOOCs allow this in a really novel way.
And to that end I’m thankful for MOOCs – I wish they were around when I was younger and I’m so glad that they are here now.