I just visited StraighterLine, got a demo login and went to the course demo. The name StraighterLine suggests that it is a more direct, efficient, economical way to get to what you need – a degree credit. The website has great messaging, good graphics and a slew of the mandatory big brand names as partners, and an impressive array of subject coverage. Do not miss the money back guarantees.
But take a look at the content, please. Take a look at the learning experience. Do people, in this age, really think that good packaging is more important than learning outcomes? When do we wake up and realize that we need to evolve learning experiences so people actually learn effectively online? And build a business plan around that.
It is the same with the (now boring and regular) announcements in the xMOOC space. Every new announcement (witness the last one on student verification/credentialing services by Coursera), seems to be extending the state of art in a revolutionary manner. All it is, is an extension of business models for revenue making opportunities. When was the last (or first) time you heard the xMOOCs making an important pedagogical announcements – “we have built an ABC engine/technique/interaction that ensures XYZ learning skills are encouraged in students”?
The trends for monetization in this “industry” are so boring to watch evolve, that I am tempted to write my own list and watch it pan out over the next two years. There are 7 players – student, teacher, institution, government, employer, providers and for profit company. These 7 players each need a variety of services based on the interactions between them.
A large part of the services are entrenched in offline ways in the existing system and need to be converted online (for a fee mostly). Some of the services that are monetizable are because they exist as part of the new online space itself (i.e. they would not have existed if the medium was offline).
It does not need a rocket scientist to figure out what services can be digitally automated or created anew, and it does not require more than a board room confabulation (with accompanying opportunistic or trial and error based thinking) to figure out which service to monetize first in a disaggregated (and later consolidated) fashion.
Yeah, right. Learning innovation will be counted in terms of business metrics – on how many students placed, on how many dollars made and saved by universities, of how many numbers of people you aggregated on your site so you could monetize irrespective of whether you contributed to learning (apparently Facebook is now charging to send targeted messages, so may be the xMOOCs should learn from them). No wonder the universities are frightened and want part of the bull-rush.
And as Joshua Kim states, providing a more holistic perspective, “Simply grafting a MOOC or an online program or online course on to the existing structure of course development and delivery will prove to be an inadequate an ineffective response to the changing higher ed market.” Like this post on Adjunct Faculty.
I am swiftly coming to the conclusion we are creating a monster. This is our second monster, the first being the current industrial age education system. Except that this new monster will reach a phenomenally large number of people (some of who, from less advantaged groups and countries will have no choice but to accept a lower quality alternative) because of the same reasons it will be made powerful – open-ness, cost efficiency and accessibility. Even in India, we seem to moving policy towards (ahem) institutionalizing this new monster.