Technology Mediated Education, MOOCs and Lifelong Learning

Technology Mediated Education, MOOCs and Lifelong Learning
Higher education leaders are discussing the ramifications of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) offered through new organizations such as Coursera or Udacity. Web-based or online courses have been offered at universities since 1994 so why is the MOOC discussion receiving so much attention? Is it because the courses are free? Are we stunned that elite colleges would offer a free course to 30,000 students? Or are we surprised that in a few short months, hundreds of thousands of students of all ages globally are registering for these courses? Regardless, MOOCs have elevated the discussion about technology-mediated education and its role in higher education. While academic debates continue regarding whether MOOCs are just a great branding strategy without regard for whether students are actually learning in these massive courses, we applaud the efforts to increase access to new information. MOOCs are a valuable option for lifelong learners.

The worldwide race for knowledge continues to fuel a global learning revolution, which is rapidly realigning the attitudes and principles, norms and practices that have traditionally driven the academic enterprise. As such, education has become a lifelong pursuit, rather than a diploma-driven activity; a process of dynamic participation, rather than of information transfer; with the emphasis shifting from teacher-directed to learner-centric instruction.

Universities utilizing technology-mediated education are leading this revolution because of their broader accessibility and greater affordability. And in meeting the increasing demand for their programs and services, universities are using sophisticated distance education technologies to create an effective network of lifelong learning continuums and communities. These virtual pathways offer seemingly unlimited possibilities for educating individuals of all ages, abilities, ethnicities, and economic circumstances who wish to enter the academic pipeline at different times, in different places, and for different reasons.

As higher education leaders, we need to cultivate these new pathways and opportunities: 1) to measurably enhance the learning experience; 2) to design a learning environment in which students may succeed; 3) to furnish academic programs that are highly applicable in today’s knowledge economy; and 4) to create a global knowledge ecology in which information, ideas and inspiration flourish and cross-pollinate.