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Bryan Alexander on the Future of MOOCs

The MOOC phenomenon may have wide-reaching implications for the future of teaching, learning and data. In this podcast Bryan Alexander, founder of Bryan Alexander Consulting, LLC and senior fellow at the National Institute for Technology in Liberal Education (NITLE), shares his view of how MOOCs can and will affect the future of higher education.


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Running time: 10m 4s
File size: 6.93 MB


In Bryan's second model, he refers to the perceived diminished value of HE faculty in a context where facilitators preside over massive audiences instead of being the center of a instructor-based learning ecology. He envisions a world where only the definitive authorities in subject matter will occupy a sustainable position of employment.

There is a precedent for this transformation in another industry: video post-production editors. Examination of the outcome of this transformation in its present state may offer a model of what may come for HE instructors.

In a nutshell, until roughly 2004, editors performed "voodoo" for their clients where only editors had access to the gear and the knowledge of the complexity of producing a TV commercial from a film negative, digitized format, creative assembly, finishing, stadards complaince, to delivery. Clients were beholden to editors' rates and availability for the privilege of engaging this talent.

This is no longer the case. The market has shifted dramatically away from TV, sophisticated gear is accessible for a few thousand dollars, anyone can learn how to do it, and the finishing process for web-based content is not governed by the same complex standards as TV. Thus, the bottom fell out of the professional editor's status, relevance, and compensation. Everyone's an editor now.

That's the bad news. The good news is that everyone's an editor now! There has never been more post-production going on in human history. An entirely new segment of production has emerged simply to satisfy the voracious need for subscriber-based YouTube content (i.e. Autotune the News, Annoying Orange, etc.).

If we project this model onto the future of HE instructors, the prospects suggest that entrpreneurial instructors can produce their own course environments with a minimum of overhead, reach a global audience, and perhaps offer innovations we could not have imagined in formal situations. The name-brand institutions won't matter as much as it did before.

In short, I have seen most of the multi-million dollar TV-related businesses I used to work at in NYC collapse under the weight of their own self-importance and propriety. It happened to them - it can happen to HE. I suggest we brace for an industry with wider choices, opportunities, and innovation, but greater challenges in agreeing upon which certifications will be accepted by those for whom it matters.

Steve Covello
Rich Media Specialist/Instructional Designer/Online Instructor
Granite State College
Concord, NH

Seems like the tech version of Gresham's law.  Nobody pretends that YouTube content is technologically close to the quality of broadcast video--but nobody cares.  It also seems to be consistent: mp3 format is not nearly as rich an audio experience as previous standards--but nobody cares.

Also true of MOOCs, which replicate the worst F2F learning experience, the large--no, make that HUGE--lecture course?

Glenn Everett
Pembroke, MA