The MOOCs did not save the world or changed Higher Ed, as promised. But Coursera's new round of funding point to a redefinition of sorts for MOOCs, and perhaps a firmer founding. It seems Coursera has found a new strategy in Professional Development, as did Udacity with their nano-degrees earlier. Instead of changing the Higher Education and emerging as replacements of college, Coursera, along with its partner colleges, have become an attractive place for people who already have degree level education and want to keep developing their knowledge and skills.
This is a new perspective in the Education Innovation conversation. The initial investor interests, which picked up around 2011, were driven by some sort of apocalyptic death-of-the-college thinking. Looking back, the trigger for this may have been the Great Recession, which brought out the middle class employment crisis in sharp relief, and made the US student debt look dangerous. However, in many a sense, that moment has now passed. While the spotlight shown on student loans crisis has been useful - the linkage of rising fees and student loans has now been acknowledged - the economic crisis reaffirmed the graduate premium (only if by the way of decline of non-graduate pay) and increasing use of technology at work made Higher Education equivalent to what High School was several generations ago, a bare minimum requirement. College enrolments have risen globally, particularly in the expanding middle class economies such as India, China, Nigeria and South Africa, and, instead of the apocalyptic ending, college has achieved a new high.
This does not mean that we have solved all the issues with Higher Education. Far from it - and the expanding interest in Higher Education has only brought out a range of issues that need to be solved. While they may have been the same issues that prompted our end-of-college prophesying, of Access and Efficiency, our understanding of them has changed significantly within a few short years. It is worth looking at these to understand the new strategy that Coursera has adapted to.
Access to Higher Education, and the related issue of cost, is an important issue not because the college is dying, but because it is becoming indispensable. Across developed and developing economies, the demand for college education has expanded rapidly. Developed countries, with their aging population and higher levels of Higher Ed access, have stopped public investment in institution building, but developing countries rapidly expanded its public infrastructure. India, for example, opened up several new Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) and Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs), once exclusive institutions, along with a host of publicly funded institutions for medical, science and legal education institutions. At the same time, it has allowed private investment in Higher Education in an unprecedented scale, opening, at least for the period between 2006 and 2012, 5 new colleges every day. A similar trend is noticeable across the developing world, except perhaps Sub-Saharan Africa, where the lack of investment, and other issues such as security and stability, has limited the expansion of college seats.
This unprecedented expansion, particularly in the developing world, somewhat negated the investor assumptions that the expanding demand for Higher Education can only be accommodated through Online Education, which was one of the key assumptions behind ventures such as Coursera. The expansion of Higher Ed system across the developing world has somewhat blunted the issue of rising costs, as experienced in the US. Rather, other, deeper, issues related to Access to Higher Education have come to the foreground, such as the Rural/ Urban divide, the language issues, gender issues etc. The original, simplistic, view of expanding access - making Higher Education available online and driving down costs - has now had to accommodate far more complex issues such as how to deal with language barriers, social stereotypes and geographical variation.
Efficiency issues, always in contention, have also come to the fore. The original question - could Higher Ed be good enough when expanded - quickly morphed into something bigger, as the years of uninterrupted prosperity and expanding employment looked truly over, and the prospect of technological unemployment really real. The neat boundaries between Higher Education and Vocational Training, and Higher Education and Lifelong Learning, the structures around which much of the sector was organised - and investors made their bets - started falling apart. Instead, a mega-sector of learning started emerging, with a variety of providers complementing each other. The zero-sum view of college being replaced by some other kind of college looked stillborn, and rather the prospect of a endless zone of learning, built around collaboration of various kinds of educators and employers, became real. The old question whether education should lead to a job or status or marriage has been made somewhat redundant in the context of this emergent ecosystem and continuous pursuit of relevance in this more complex, globalising and technological world. The concept of College, designed to be a simple, time-bound, end-to-end solution for social position and career, had to transform with the changes in the middle class life - and become somewhat continuous, like the membership in a professional community that made continuous demands of upgrade and advancement. The question of efficiency, in this new context, became less of a defined outcome, and more of connecting and keeping pace.
The original promise of MOOCs, changing college by making courses from the best universities available to everyone, was attractive but dated. Technology alone was not going to solve the problem of access, but rather, opened up the new, more complex, issues related to it. Efficiency in Higher Education, a question of outcome at conception, became one of belonging, once the changing nature of learning became apparent. Coursera, in its belated avatar, seems to have found its mojo within this new context, becoming a tool for learning communities and continuous advancement, a complement to the brick-and-mortar institutions who are better placed to solve the access problems and an option for college-educated to become forever-learning. In this form, it may indeed have greater chance of success.
Popular posts from this blog
A friend has recently forwarded me a quote from Lord Macaulay's speech in the British Parliament on 2nd February 1835. I reproduce the quote below: "I have traveled across the length and breadth of India and I have not seen one person who is a beggar, who is a thief. Such wealth I have seen in this country, such high moral values, people of such calibre, that I do not think we would ever conquer this country, unless we break the very backbone of this nation, which is her spiritual and cultural heritage, and, therefore, I propose that we replace her old and ancient education system, her culture, for if the Indians think that all that is foreign and English is good and greater than their own, they will lose their self-esteem, their native self-culture and they will become what we want them, a truly dominated nation." The email requested me to forward me to every indian I know. I was tempted, but there were two oddities about this quote. First, the language, which
Introduction : The Business of Gift Giving Business gift giving has always been common and contentious at the same time. Business gifts are usually seen as an ‘advertising, sales promotion and marketing communication medium’ (Cooper et al , 1991). Arunthanes et al (1994) points out that such gifting is practised usually for three reasons: (a) in appreciation for past client relationships, placing a new order, referrals to other clients, etc.; (b) in the hopes of creating a positive, first impression which might help to establish an initial business relationship; and (c) giving may be perceived as a quid Pro quo (i.e. returning a favour or expecting a favour in return for something). The practitioners of gift-giving generally argue that doing business is often an aggregation of personal interactions and relationships, and gift-giving should be seen as a natural way of maintaining and enhancing these relationships. ‘Business gifts, especially one given in the course of the festive s
Today, Helen Goddard, 26, a highly popular music teacher of a City School for Girls, has been sentenced to 15 months in prison. Her crime was to carry out a year long lesbian affair with one of her pupils, who appeared in the court and admitted that the affair was consensual and it was she who pressured Helen into the affair. For Helen, a bright musician and a devout Chistian, this is an extraordinary lapse of judgement. Also, she was teaching in the £13,000 private girls only school in London. She was surely aware what the consequences of her action will be. The fact that she still could not stop herself tells us that lovers do not always act rationally, something we always knew. There is more in this affair than personal tragedies. For a start, this has all the dramatic elements: a bright, beautiful teacher more in Julia Roberts mould [as in Mona Lisa Smile], a stiff upper lip school [not unlike Wellesley] and a story like Notes On A Scandal with an added twist. Indeed, Helen
Buzzwords have disadvantages. Right now, experiential learning is one, and that means we put the label on everything and it stops to mean anything. Also, this means reasonable conversation about experiential learning becomes difficult - at times such as this, either you preach experiential learning or you are traditional, antiquarian and hopelessly out of touch. But, overlooking the limitations of experiential learning can cause big problems. Experiential Learning does many things - putting practice at the heart of learning is an important paradigm shift - but not everything, and it is important to be aware what it does not do. Usually, we equate the terms Project-based Learning (the method) with Experiential Learning (the idea) and Learning from Experience (the ideal), treating them as one and the same and using the terms interchangeably. Any talk about distinctive meaning of these terms is usually seen as pedantic, but really represent very different ideas about education.
Nations are ideas. We try to fashion them as territories. But how can a river, a mountain ridge or sometimes an imaginary line in the middle of a field can explain the wide division in the lives, thoughts and futures of the people who live on different sides? Nations are not the people too. Indeed, people build nations and become its body. But the soul of the nation is an idea: People come together on an idea to build a nation. While that's what a modern nation is - an idea - and that way exceptionalism is not an American exception, very few nations are as completely defined by an idea as Pakistan. There was hardly any political, geographic or military rationale of Pakistan other than the idea of an Islamic homeland in South Asia. [In that way, the ideological brother of Pakistan in the family of nations is Israel] This, abated by the short term political calculations of some backroom colonialists, created a modern state which must be solely sustained on that singular idea. Reli
In most societies today, making profits are accepted as moral, if not especially praiseworthy. This was not as obvious as it appears today – people used to be embarrassed about making a profit not so long ago. Crazy as it seems today, it is worth thinking why it was so. Profits, as economists will put it, is the reward for risk-taking, for putting a business enterprise together in the pursuit of an objective. In this definition, remember, profits are not what it is commonly understood to be – the gross middle-line towards the bottom – but a figure net of entrepreneur’s earning [wages for his labour], dividends and interests on borrowed capital, and provisions for building and other physical assets [a sort of rent, offsetting what these assets could have earned if leased out]. This pure profit – surplus – accrues to a business as a reward to its organisation, for the act of entrepreneurship itself. Economists were divided on how this surplus comes about. The conventional wisdom was,
Introduction: Hastings in the history of Indian Education Whether or not one includes Warren Hastings in the history of Education in India is a matter of perspective. If writing the history of education means writing the history of schools, the impact of Hastings' administration would be quite limited. If anything, the rapid implosion of local rulers in Eastern, Southern and Northern India during Hastings' tenure had meant a bleak period for the indigenous education system, as patronage and funds would have dwindled away for many of them. The Company administration really concerned itself with the schooling of the natives only after 1813, as Nurullah and Naik rightly pointed out ( see my earlier post ) and one can legitimately start the story at this point. However, if history of Education in India is to encompass the transformation of Indian Scholarship, on which foundation the new, colonial, system of Education would be built, the story must start with Warren Hast
As India's democracy reaches a critical juncture, with a very real danger of a authoritarian take-over, Rabindranath Tagore's birth anniversary is a perfect occasion to revisit the founding idea of India once again. There are many things in his politics that we may need to dust up and reconsider: Tagore's political ideas, because of his inherent aversion of popular nationalism and enthusiasm about Pan-Asianism and universalism, were outside the mainstream of the Indian National Movement, seen as impractical and effectively shunned. He was seen mostly as the Poet and the mystic, someone whose politics remains in the domain of the ideas rather than action. Tagore himself, after a brief passionate involvement in politics during the division of Bengal by Lord Curzon in 1905, withdrew from political action: He never belonged to the political class, despite his iconic status and itinerant interventions, such as returning the Knighthood after the massacre of Amritsar in 1919.
The story of British influence on Indian Education, to which Macaulay's Minutes of 1835 belong, has been told in six distinct phases. Syed Nurullah and J P Naik's very popular and influential History of Indian Education calls these 'six acts' of the drama: From the beginning of Eighteenth Century to 1813 The British East India Company received its charter in 1600 but its activities did not include any Educational engagement till the Charter Act of 1698, which required the Company to maintain priests and schools, for its own staff and their children. And, so it was until the renewal of its charter in 1813, when the evangelical influence led to insistence of expansion of educational activities and allowing priests back into company territory. From 1813 to Wood's Education Despatch of 1854 The renewal of Charter in 1813 re-opened the debate, which seemed to have been settled in the early years of the company administration, between the Orientalis
I spent the last week at the Ideas for India conference in London. This conference had different strands, and brought the diaspora Indians, India watchers and a number of delegates from India together. Because Rahul Gandhi chose to attend - a rather last minute thing which changed the published agenda somewhat - the media narrative revolved around his 40-odd minutes of talk. And, of course, a sense of discomfort hung over the whole conference: A wholly new thing for me and it shows how much India has changed. Somehow, the people in India seemed to think that no conversation about India should happen anywhere else in the world, a strange thing for a country which is anxious to assert its global importance. Additionally, anything outside the official channel is seen as conspiracy. Gone are those days when the presumptive opposition candidate, the current Prime Minister, could freely interact with the diaspora Indians and slam Dr Manmohan Singh's lack of initiative; today, this wou
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.