MOOC, Internationalization, Massification and Globo-Massification of Higher Education

UntitledA potential new threatening game changer has entered the  higher education market. If predictions, some dire, are realized,  the threat might soon make university and higher education delivery as we know it, a thing of the past. Higher Education provision is set to become a globo-massification phenomenon.

World renowned Harvard professor, Clayton Christensen, the father of the theory of change and innovation called, Disruptive Innovation, reportedly believes that the University together with Apple need to be afraid for their survival.

Universities everywhere, it seems, cannot afford to be complacent. Those in the developing world, mine included, would do well to plug into the global higher education conversation now and prepare to leverage new technological capabilities and knowledge expertise in new ways.

Disruptive Innovation in Higher Education

Disruption Innovation, the theory, espouses that innovative businesses at the top of their game are eventually toppled by less expensive and sophisticated rivals which initially enter the market at the lower-cost end catering to a small market sector. But as the product is further developed, it becomes more broadly accepted  increasing its market share.  Eventually, it knocks off the market leader.

What, we may ask, is the innovative startup that could topple the university and higher education model as we know it?

 Massification, Open and Distance Learning, Internationalization and MOOC

MOOC is  the  logical new but massive step up in masssification, open and distance learning and internationalization of higher education.  Internationalization  and   Massification of higher education as well as Open and Distance Learning have been well understood concepts defining  higher education for decades.  Internationalization of higher education refers to the global marketization of higher education, and Massification describes the opening up of the university and higher education to mass access instead of just the elite.

So why then is there such a buzz about the new disruptive model of higher education and online learning called MOOC?


MOOC or Massive Open Online Course, the new higher education delivery model, seems to have captured the imagination of higher education on a global scale.  The MOOC modle promises to ratchet up open and distance learning to a whole new level leveraging ICT enabled online learning management platforms.  If the critics don’t win out, MOOC promises to give new meaning to massification and internationalization of higher education and open and distance learning

 In theory, anyone at any age anywhere in the world has the real prospect of receiving higher education from the most elite of higher education institutions in the world. Class sizes in MOOCs run into the thousands and the take up of the courses is global in reach. For instance 40 000 students were enrolled in Fundamentals of Online Education: Planning and Application, a MOOC offered by Georgia Institute of Technology. Little wonder then that some commentators have touted MOOCs as the new social levelers, distance levelers and a democratizing force, the new game changer or revolution in higher education. MOOCs offer  nations, especially those in the developing world, a real possibility to upscale cost effective higher education through online learning.

The Big Players in the Growing MOOC Industry

The MOOC format is spawning a whole new industry in higher education online learning management platforms. Not surprisingly, the biggest players are all US based as it is the birth place of the new format. This year though, UK is getting on the bandwagon.    Increasing numbers of universities globally are leveraging the services of these companies to move courses online. Some of the courses are for credit but others are not. A number of these companies are for profit, others are not and still others offer courses at reduced cost.  The biggest in the business now are:

1. Udacity

Udacity is the pioneer of the MOOC format which started in 2011. It website reads:  “Udacity was born out of a Stanford University experiment in which Sebastian Thrun and Peter Norvig offered their “Introduction to Artificial Intelligence” course online to anyone, for free. Over 160,000 students in more than 190 countries enrolled….”

2. EdX

This platform is a partnership between Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). EdX  founder is  Anant  Agarwal, former Director of MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, serves as the first president of EdX.

3. Coursera

Launched in 2012, Coursera is another Staford University based provider of MOOC.  Its founders are both in Computer Sciences: Daphne Koller, Professor in the Computer Science Department, and Andrew Ng, Associate Professor of Computer Science. In 2011, he was the instructor of  a Machine Learning class that was one of Stanford’s first massive online courses.  Over 100,000 student enrolled for the course globally. A description about who they are on their webpage reads:

“We are a social entrepreneurship company that partners with the top universities in the world to offer courses online for anyone to take, for free.   We envision a future where the top universities are  educating not only thousands of students, but millions.   Our technology enables the best professors to teach tens or hundreds of thousands of students. Through this, we hope to give everyone access to the world-class education that has so far been available only to a select few.  We want to empower people with education that will improve their lives, the lives of their families, and the communities they live in.”

4. Academic Partnerships

Academic Partnerships is a for profit company that  public and land grant universities in the US are engaging to develop courses for online delivery in the MOOC format.

5. FutureLearn: the first British MOOC Venture to be

The  new company is being created by the Open University, a veteran of open and distance education. FutureLearn hopes to start delivering programs this year.  Some leading British universities recently announced plans to capitalize on local expertise to move their courses online for free.

What has MOOC to Offer the Developing World?

If the MOOC model is the distance and social leveler, a new democratizing force and a game changer that it is being made out to be, it might just hold out the promise that the developing world so desperately needs to massively upscale the higher education of its citizens. Papua New Guinea’s higher education, for instance, has the capacity to enroll only 10 000 out of the many thousands seeking higher education. The system’s annual output of less than 3000  is not sufficient to meet national demand. It is reported that that the system’s enrollment and output has to increase by up to 50 % by 2020 to meet strategic goal demands.  There seems little indication right now of where innovation is happening in the sector. MOOCs may offer PNG the silver bullet.




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