What is the problem for which MOOCs are the solution?

Diana Laurillard, Enl@ce Revista Venezolana de Información, Tecnología y Conocimiento, Jun 26, 2014
Commentary by Stephen Downes

Diana Laurillard offers the answer to the question in terms of what problems MOOCs have solved, which seems to be a bit of an odd way to address a nascent technology. "The problem MOOCs succeed in solving is: to provide free university teaching for highly qualified professionals." Well, yes. And that's the problem the internet had solved by 1990, and the web by 1999. But surely that's not the extent of the problem-solving being does by open online content and services. I have always intended open online learning so address issues of access. Laurillard writes, "by 2015 there will still be 53m children out of school... UNESCO estimates that we need 1,600,000 teachers to achieve universal primary education." At $10K per teacher, that's an additional $16 billion in salaries; at $100K that's $160 billion. I see no sign anyone is prepared to pay this kind of money. So we need to address access in some other way than simply hiring teachers. Can MOOCs help here? Maybe. As Laurillard says, "If we are to have any hope of reaching our most ambitious educational goal of universal primary education, we have to find innovative ways of teaching." (p.s. - if you charge "even the modest cost of $49" it's not a MOOC).  (p.p.s. this was posted on the ALT newsletter today; previously posted at IOE London blog May 14).

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