Want An Online College Degree? Google It

9 years ago - September 17, 2013
Inside Higher Ed reported today that Google GOOG and edX are partnering to offer an open-source MOOC — massively open online course — platform.

The announcement means that virtually anyone will be able to create online course offerings. This move is likely to cause further disruption in the race among edX’s competitors, Udacity and Coursera, to gain the high ground in the creation and delivery of online education.

Inside Higher Ed reports, EdX, the online course provider created by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute for Technology, sees an open-source future for massive online courses. On Tuesday, the company announced it has found a like-minded partner in Google, which will work with edX to make its online course platform more accessible to aspiring developers.

Together, edX and Google’s programmers will build Open edX, an open-source MOOC platform that will be made available on MOOC.org. The website, which will launch early next year, will enable anyone — universities, corporations and individuals alike — to create online courses.”

An open-source online education platform such as Open edX could be an accessible foundation for innovation and efficiency in education, but perhaps beyond just a technological standpoint. A year ago I was on  a panel at a 529 College Savings Plan conference discussing the future of higher education. I commented that, in order to get skilled employees matched up with employer’s needs faster, we may eventually see companies collaborating in virtual real-time with institutions of higher education to create course offerings that are relevant to specific skill sets, employability and scalability.

The key part of this announcement is that the platform is open-source, which will allow not just educational institutions to create content, but employers, too.

Co-op based education at institutions like the University of Cincinnati, Drexel, Northeastern, RIT, University of Massachusetts at Lowell and Georgia Tech already do this to some degree with a combination of classroom time and on-the-job training. Granted, some things cannot be rushed, like engineering and medical professions, which are well-suited to the co-op format, but America needs innovation paired with skilled workers in other areas, too. With Open edX, Fortune 500 companies may be partnering with Forbes Top Colleges, like MIT and Harvard, as well as the aforementioned list of co-op schools, to compress the time-to-skill, getting students into the workforce faster and for less investment than today’s four-year degree costs in cash outlay and delayed workforce entry.
I suppose, in a creative sense, we need to find a way to combine MOOCs with co-ops, skill sets with the problem-solving and critical thinking of liberal arts, and continuing education with dual enrollment, all to fill the jobs of today and tomorrow. We have had innovation and education, and now perhaps we are seeing innovation in education, which is long overdue. Blendedschools.net is leading the way at the secondary level, disrupting the traditional model with the ability to access a course like one would buy an app for a smartphone.
Dr. Jack Matson is a prize-winning innovator who is one of the instructors of the MOOC offered through Penn State and Coursera on Creativity, Innovation and Change. The course, which I am enrolled in, has 125,000 students worldwide. In his discussion of Intelligent Fast Failure (IFF), Dr. Matson quoted Einstein saying, “It is said that genius is the ability to make all possible mistakes in the least amount of time.”
As has been well chronicled, Udacity ran into some issues with student outcomes and experience in their online course offerings with San Jose State University. So they took a step back and changed some things for the better. The public should expect failures, embrace their value and learn from them, fast. Progress can be painful, but as Dr. Wilson Greatbatch  said, “My most abject failure may be a stepping stone to someone else’s grand success.”
Failure and success are not confined to classrooms, so neither is education. I doubt the day will come where we can just Google a college degree and be on our way to a good job, but we will have new formats and options for learning, and they could be way more cost effective and skill-focused than they are today.

Text by Forbes

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