What are MOOC projects for?
Thank you all for the quality of your contributions to the discussion on MOOC funding. Tony asks a central question: what are MOOC projects for? Let me give my own point of view (and my motivation) on this.
It is true that, for the time being, Universities have mostly seen MOOCs as a way of raising their profile and ranking in an increasingly competitive environment. But I believe that we are undergoing a revolution in the way knowledge is disseminated (similar to the printing revolution initiated by Gutenberg) and this revolution means a new role for Universities, or maybe a new type of University.
In parallel, our world has become the global village foreseen by Marshall McLuhan. This struck me last November when the tragic events that took place in my own neighborhood in Paris were immediately known throughout the world and a wave of sympathy almost instantaneously lighted monuments all over the planet in blue, white and red.
In this context, Universities must make their own revolution. For centuries, they were reserved to the happy few, nationals (apart from a few world class universities) with a good curriculum, and in the age range between 18 and 25. Now they should address the whole world, with learners of all ages, diverse origins and cultures, diverse backgrounds and training.
There is clearly a market for that, and some private entities have started investing into this potentially fruitful market. Why should we bother? Because we are dealing with education and training, and thus with our own future as the human race. And because trusting this task only to cost-driven entities will necessarily lead to uniformity and formatting.
Now, you may rightfully think that Universities have also played their roles in formatting people in a certain way. This is why they need to do their own revolution. Why is this necessary? Because, in order to solve the huge problems of our global village, we need a diversity of talents , whether they are to be found in the suburbs of Rio, Capetown or Chongqing, the City of London, the villages of India or Silicon Valley.
But why should Universities get involved in this revolution? That, I understood from MOOC learners. Last spring, we released the French version of Gravity! At the end of the course, we received many thanks and congratulations from the learners. And one message was coming through: “nowadays, we are flooded with information, we have to digest it but no one asks us to think. This is what you did. It may be painful at times, but, in the end, it feels so good!” Now, isn’t that a splendid goal for the University of tomorrow to make people think? And who else could be trusted with such a mission?