edX Workshop at University of Michigan

Digital Education and Innovation at University of Michigan put on a workshop about edX and MOOCs. I attended because I’m interested in the intersection of Information Age topics with Higher Education and the ways in which related socio-technical systems are changing. For example, we saw some ways in which the music industry and newspaper industries changed and I’ve been curious about how Higher Education might adapt or change in light of similar forces. At the core, any field or industry that bases its value on managing or providing information through physical distribution is in for some change.

From a panel of faculty and discussions at the workshop I saw these Information Age themes coming up, even when they weren’t described in the same words. There was talk about allowing learners to sample content before making a commitment (like purchasing). There was the idea of mass-customization, where a MOOC professor must reach thousands globally, but also be able to treat each learner as an individual in as personalized a manner as possible. Frequently, the idea that content, like lectures, should be divided down into smaller increments in a way that seems to echo the music industry’s deconstruction of the album as the unit of purchase down to the song as the unit of purchase.

From the presentations and conversations of the day, I left thinking about the following questions:

  • Why are demographics of those taking MOOCs so different from the demographics of those taking the same courses in person in the classroom?
  • What socio-technical factors limit the participation of “regular” people in MOOCs?
  • What value or opinion do students and employers place on MOOC based credentials (like certifications and credits)?
  • What definitions of success exist for each of the roles and actors related to MOOCs?

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