The new darling of the online educational community is Massively Open Online Courses (MOOCs). The example which figures most prominently in the popular imagination is the Khan Academy, though its founder says otherwise, noting that MOOCs are merely online transplantations of traditional courses, while Khan Academy offers something different.
Others would take issue with his conclusion, or characterization. A “connectivist” MOOCis based on four principles:
- Aggregation. The whole point of a connectivist MOOC is to provide a starting point for a massive amount of content to be produced in different places online, which is later aggregated as a newsletter or a web page accessible to participants on a regular basis. This is in contrast to traditional courses, where the content is prepared ahead of time.
- Remixing, that is, associating materials created within the course with each other and with materials elsewhere.
- Re-purposing of aggregated and remixed materials to suit the goals of each participant.
- Feeding forward, sharing of re-purposed ideas and content with other participants and the rest of the world.
Sounds great, but is it working? Can it work? A piece in the current issue of The Washington Monthly took a look and concluded:
Given the current 90 percent dropout rate in most MOOCs, an 8-point gap in completion rates between traditional and online courses offered by community colleges, the 6.5 percent graduation rate even at the respected Western Governors University, and the ambiguity of many other higher education reform ideas, there’s good reason to think that an unbound future might not be so great.
The best American innovations in education were the Land-Grant College Act of 1862, which helped create a system of public universities, and the GI Bill of 1944, which ensured that an entire generation had the money to attend college. This widespread access to the college experience enabled people from working-class backgrounds to advance en masse into professional jobs that required reasoning and logic and extensive knowledge of the world. The question is whether or not we will continue this trend or simply give up and say that a few online classes and specialized training are good enough for the majority of Americans.
In other words: Democratization of higher education – good; MOOCs – not so much.
Why is this relevant to you, gentle reader?
The question is whether the promise of MOOCs, or their inability to deliver, will characterize MOOM — Eric Topol’s neologism, “Massively Open Online Medicine,” used in his HIMSS 2013 keynote.
In health care, a perfect implementation of big data and data analytics, combined with open access for clinicians and patients, would yield a success in MOOM along the lines of a connectivist MOOC.