MOOC is here to stay, professors will have to find another job
I find myself every other day in a conversation with people about the massive online open course (MOOC) movement.
People often want to complain about the quality of this education substitute. They say that students won’t get the one-on-one interaction between the professor and student that is required to really learn. They complain that we won’t know if someone really knows something if they only took a MOOC or two.
First of all, this isn’t going away, nor should it: it’s many people’s only opportunity to learn this stuff. It’s not like MIT has plans to open 4,000 campuses across the world. It’s really awesome that rural villagers (with internet access) all over the world can now take MIT classes anyway through edX.
Second, if we’re going to put this new kind of education under the microscope, let’s put the current system under the microscope too. Many of the people fretting about the quality of MOOC education are themselves products of super elite universities, and probably don’t know what the average student’s experience actually is. Turns out not everyone gets a whole lot of attention from their professors.
Even at elite institutions, there are plenty of masters programs which are treated as money machines for the university and where the quality and attention of the teaching is a secondary concern. If certain students decide to forgo the thousands of dollars and learn the stuff just as well online, then that would be a good thing (for them at least).
Some things I think are inevitable:
- Educational institutions will increasingly need to show they add value beyond free MOOC experiences. This will be an enormous market force for all but the most elite universities.
- Instead of seeing where you went to school, potential employers will directly test knowledge of candidates. This will mean weird things like you never actually have to learn a foreign language or study Shakespeare to get a job, but it will be good for the democratization of education in general.
- Professors will become increasingly scarce as the role of the professor is decreased.
- One-on-one time with masters of a subject will become increasingly rare and expensive. Only truly elite students will have the mythological education experience.