It was just a couple of years ago that we started hearing the term MOOC, and in my work with educators around the country, just the last 6 months that it has really percolated into the mindset of most K-12 educators. In that ridiculously short period of time, hundreds of millions of dollars have been invested with the vision that MOOC’s are not only an opportunity to democratize and flatten access to education, but to make money in doing so. Annie Murphy Paul posted this update:
…I read an article on the website Re/Code this week about where the leading MOOC-makers (Udacity, Coursera, and edX) are taking their business models.
In the article, reporter Liz Gannes notes that Udacity has “honed in on the idea that mentoring and tutoring are key to retention. In tests of classes that provided hands-on help to each student, retention rates grew from 5 percent to 60 to 90 percent, according to CEO Sebastian Thrun . . . Thrun’s take is that tutoring encourages students to make a personal investment in a course, and stick it out.”
So Udacity is making such tutoring central to its mission. It will still provide course content for free, but will charge students for coaching— $150 per month.”
It is wonderful to see Thrun and others wrestling/thrashing around with the MOOC business model. Some disparage the idea of MOOC’s given high drop-out rates and no early indications that students learn better in this modality. I see all of that as the natural evolution of a new idea. The key point: there will not be one answer that rises to the top while all others fall away. Students and their needs do not fit into a cookie cutter; that is what the end of assembly line learning is all about. THE answer is not MOOC’s or Khan Academy or any of the other marvelous offerings on the buffet that is now being laid. The world of shared learning is becoming vastly more differentiated, which means we and our students get to increasingly access what we need, when we need it.
Stop looking for, and trying to name, one Holy Grail: grit, MOOC, PBL, CCSS, tablet, flip. Despite the hard work and money that investors have bet in the hope that they have built THE key to great learning, these are all just arrows in the quiver of a learner. Innovators will keep working on ways to hit the target more often.
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