Friday, 22 February 2013

#MOOCs change education, but jobs decline in a knowledge era

Jay Cross got me onto the Ted video where Daphne Koller (co-founder of Coursera) speaks about the benefits of MOOCs. And yes, great MOOCs follow the best practices of great online learning: active learning, authentic learning, peer-to-peer interactions, peer grading... and Daphne puts everything out there very clear and with research based evidence + MOOC stat examples. I love MOOCs, I organized two on mobile learning in 2011 and 2012 - the so called MobiMOOC, because I am a firm believer in both education and online, lifelong learning, as well as technology. So inevitably MOOCs have been and are to me a benefit (and please all the discussions on pro and cons only remind me of similar discussions when school television came out, or the internet even... at the beginning it is always the utopians versus the sceptics, but in the end ... the technology is simply adopted because it allows new things to happen).

BUT ... there are a few inconsistencies resulting from MOOCs on the promises they seem to provide and were I get stuck. Feel free to give me any possible answer.

To provide jobs from MOOC graduates, society has to change
There are simply things, like access to technology. Yes, MOOCs can reach everyone ... if they are literate in the language of the MOOC and if they have the infrastructure and instruments (= technology, electricity) and time needed. As such people in dire straights will still be in a tough position to even follow a MOOC. But even ignoring this group (for this discussion), there is a potential hick-up that can affect all of us, if society is not changed towards another working model.

Most of us in the Web sphere are convinced of the fact that the industrial revolution is behind us, and the knowledge revolution is here. And there are discussions taking place in different fields on how the internet changes everything due to all of the indirect and direct impact it has on all of our lives. So lifelong learning is put into place as a goal (personal responsibility for learning, and linking learning to the promise of success), and knowledge deepening is a goal set forth for all of us. But with knowledge comes the capacity to automate or - with similar effect but in the other option - the realization of increasing profit margins by getting cheaper labor. This means less jobs are needed due to knowledge aiming at the societal model of today.

The university graduate and MOOC dilemma 
So in a way, the focus of education of today is actually something we (the world) needs less of ... in quantity. Even if all of us MOOC'rs finish the courses, get accredited (if the course offers it) ... even then, there is not enough work for all of us.
Success stories emerge from MOOCs, with witnesses indicating how following MOOCs has changed their professional and personal lives (which is true and it makes me enthusiastic)... but this is only a temporary Utopia if we do not change the world towards where we want it to be. And I hope we want the world to head where Daphne was pointing at: getting education to all, and a better life for all of us in all regions.

The simple truth is that not all of us get jobs even when graduating from universities, and if MOOCs add to that particular degree market (universities), we are stuck, for indeed if even the one's that graduate now are not always finding jobs, with the declining job market in mind, most of the new wave of graduates will get stuck as well. A knowledge era is a fine thing, it sounds great ... for a minority of people. So how do we (re)find a balance between jobs and people having them?

Any ideas are welcomed, and if you want to hear more about MOOCs, feel free to join Jay's hangout on February 27, 9:30 am Pacific time on MOOCs with many of the MOOC actors. 

Or watch the wonderful video talk of Daphne Koller below (20 minutes):