The Digital Campus

The Digital Campus

SXSWedu Day 3: Disrupting Education One MOOC at a Time

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are causing quite a stir in the world of education. At SXSWedu 2013, there were at least 5-6 sessions focusing on MOOCs, its business model, potential, challenges, and even coined a new term: MOOC 2.0!

The hype

While the potential and excitement was palpable during the entire conference, there were plenty of critics out there. The criticisms included:

  • MOOCs are mostly vanity projects for big universities.
  • They are not new; they’ve been around for a very long time.
  • Despite their name, MOOCs are not really open (not in the Creative Commons sense of the word “open”)
  • Offering MOOCs is an unclear proposition with a very expensive price tag.

A short clip that includes some of the points above:



While  some of the points made by critics are valid and many agreed, the potential is undeniable and there’s still a lot to learn. In fact, most schools are still discovering what it means to put their content online and figuring out what works best for them.  Josh Coates, CEO of Instructure, explains it very well in his presentation MOOCs: Hype or Hope, we are currently experimenting the peak of the hype cycle (inflated expectations,) which will eventually lead to disappointment, to be followed by a plateau of productivity and efficiency.

The hope

In general, despite the criticisms and fears expressed, there was a sense of hope and excitement around MOOCs. There was event talk about of the MOOC 2.0Keynote presenters Andrew Ng (Coursera) and Anat Agarwal (edX) talked about MOOCs, the context that made MOOCs gain such popularity, and the education model of the future.

sxswedu 2013 moocs

Laura Pappano (NYTimes), Andrew Ng (Coursera), Anant Agarwal (edX).

Key highlights:

  • Use of social media, ubiquity of video, and cloud computing made the Perfect Storm for the rise of the MOOC. 
  • MOOCs allow classroom time to center on interaction between the students and the professor.
  • MOOCs will not replace the college experience.
  • Peer grading enables courses in the humanities to be available in the MOOC format.
  • Online education in general holds great potential for continuing education.
  • In fact, both speakers advocated that the traditional model of 4 year college will be replaced by “just in time learning.”
  • In this model, adults will resort to learning to up their skills or gain new ones.
  • And we will all become life long learners.
  • Both speakers also supported the idea that quality of education will improve.
  • MOOCs are highly disruptive. But education has not been disrupted since the invention of the printing press.
  • MOOCs will improve access to education for those who seek it regardless of their geographic location or economic standing.

Watch them illustrate some of the points above in this video:



Author: Florencia Prada

Florencia Prada is the Head of Digital Marketing at swissnex San Francisco. While she loves all things tech, she tries hard not to get carried away by shiny objects and new ideas that are all too pervasive in Silicon Valley.

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