Carte blanche: Online learning is here to stay, writes Isabel Page.
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s massive open online course (MOOC) “U.Lab: Transforming Business, Society and Self” kicked off its introductory week on 10 September. With over 25,000 participants from 192 countries, including Luxembourg, U.Lab is the fourth most popular course on the edX platform. U.Lab brings together change makers to co-sense and co-shape the emerging future, transforming 21st century leadership. MOOCs mean business, but are they disruptive?
Distance learning’s roots were grounded in industrial revolution correspondence courses and grew to multimedia notably through the Open University, UK. Our internet century bears the fruit of computer-mediated web based community learning platforms such as edX, founded by MIT and Harvard and used by over thirty world universities.
Heavily criticised for educational elitism, in 2008 MOOCs appeared, developed by these richly endowed universities and offering the finest global teaching and research, for free. Anyone with access to the internet may now develop professional skills as a right. MIT’s U.Lab brings fast intergenerational and intercultural learning to world governments (particularly US, UK, Africa and India), corporations such as Google and Twitter, and entrepreneurs. How is this playing out in Luxembourg?
Since 2012 I have been travelling to MIT to work with the U.Lab developer C. Otto Scharmer from Sloan School of Management, and lecturing on Theory U, the heart of the course, for the Certificate in Sustainability and Social Innovation at the University of Luxembourg. The blueprint for this groundbreaking interdisciplinary course for students and professionals, developed by Ariane König, is being sought by universities around the world.
Hosted as an antenna event of the certificate programme, the new MOOC’s online content is complemented by weekly face-to-face and bi-weekly live sessions from MIT Boston. This hybrid model mitigates the high MOOC dropout rate of over 80%.
Most Luxembourg companies are investing less in people, and changes in employment mean changes in our society. Entrepreneurial activity is increasing through co-working spaces. Many employees and entrepreneurs need development rarely available locally: bite-sized, skip-ahead-if-I-know-this, flexible learning.
MOOCs are one response, providing innovative high-quality, low-cost or free content. Participants are mainly professionals with university degrees in rapidly changing fields who claim MOOCs increase the rate of innovation in industries, the basis for increasing economic productivity. Indeed, Luxembourg U.Lab participants are highly representative, working in financial investment, virtual currencies, banking, accounting, corporate governance, consulting and executive coaching, the social care and voluntary sector.
According to the US National Center for Education Statistics, the global market for online courses is growing: enrolments increased by 92.5% from 2007 to 2011. Online learning is definitely here to stay. For corporates, organisations and institutions, once issues of monetisation are resolved (the average development cost is over $600,000), it is likely that these high-quality brands will be sought for content, with local university partnerships for delivery.
A market disrupter? In terms of content and quality, highly likely, in terms of delivery, my prediction is a steady market steal.