MOOCs: where next? 7 strategic ways forward
Educational institutions have choices on MOOCs. What they don’t have a choice on is the use of online learning. To deny students access to online content and learning experiences is to deny reality. At the most basic level this includes the management of learners and learning, even the first step of recording lectures is useful but it also means more sophisticated active learning experiences. To continue with a totally offline strategy is not strategy but stubbornness.
On MOOCs (or whatever they turn into), the options seem to be as follows:
If you are completely certain about high student numbers and high tuition costs and don’t have budgetary problems, then you have the luxury of ignoring MOOCs. It’s dangerous, as you do have to at least recognise that they are having impact and you may eventually lose out to institutions who successfully market their brand at your expense (MIT a good example), attract more students, increase access, provide flexibility and lower costs.
This seems like a sensible tactic as you can introduce the concept of a MOOC to faculty without great risk. The danger is that pilots mostly lead to cul-de-sacs, as they don’t create any sense of urgency, momentum or real change. In fact, they can become an easy target for those who want to avoid change. There have been several examples of this recently in the US, where the MOOC has become a strawman, to be beaten to death.
A series of MOOCs, such as the six launched by the University of Edinburgh, provide a strategic statement to the organization and outside world. They involve a range of faculties and provide enough learners and data to make them useful as a major research project. This is the right way to conduct a strategic experiment. The results of the Edinburgh experiment have proved fascinating. LINK
4. Strategic external marketing
When MOOCs are seen as an actual channel for an institution to reach out to new learners, whether they be high school students, prospective national students, prospective international students, adult learners and alumni, this is a strategy of sorts. However, it remains a one-legged strategy, as without reflection on what needs to happen inside the organiisation, the delivery method may be seen as duplicitous.
5. Strategic external courses
When MOOCs are seen as part of the mission of the institution, in terms of the external delivery of learning, they can then be said to have become truly strategic in terms of their educational purpose. In many ways this brings higher education back to a more authentic purpose, the genuine promotion and delivery of learning and not the harvesting of students and fees. This involves the move towards accreditation.
6. Strategic external & internal courses
When the same, or at least similar, MOOCs are used for both internal (flipped course) and external purposes, the institution is starting to think smartly about strategy, in terms of pedagogy and costs. This is way up the maturity curve as it rubs out the contradiction between what’s done both in and out of the organisation. It requires real change management across the board.
7. Fully integrated online and offline strategy
Strategy is always an integrated entity from which all tactical objectives cascade. When an institution takes ‘blended learning’ (not just blended teaching) seriously, and redesigns their curricula and courses around optimal blends with optimal fuel mixtures of offline and online – then we have a strategy!