International Educator - May/June 2014 - 74

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FORUM
By Ben Wildavsky

Evolving Toward Significance or
MOOC Ado About Nothing?
IF YOU'RE WONDERING what to make of the MOOC explosion of the past few years, par-

ticularly its effects in the developing world, you're not alone. The advent of Massive Open Online
Courses was accompanied by enormous enthusiasm about their potential to democratize access
to high-quality education in poor countries. But it wasn't long before MOOC hype gave way to
MOOC hate, or at least intense skepticism, from critics who see these free online classes as poorly
tailored to non-Western cultures and even as instruments of neocolonialism.
The advent
of Massive
Open Online
Courses was
accompanied
by enormous
enthusiasm
about their
potential to
democratize
access to
high-quality
education in
poor countries.

74  

A Little Background

Getting Massive

To attempt an answer, or to shape the beginnings of an answer, it's worth recapping the recent history of MOOCs.
They were birthed in relative obscurity at the University
of Manitoba, Canada, in 2008, with a relatively obscurely
titled online course, "Connectivism and Connective
Knowledge." Within just a few years, MOOCs were thrust
into the media spotlight with the emergence of the Big
Three-for-profits Udacity and Coursera, and the nonprofit Harvard-MIT collaboration EdX-which remain
the dominant players today. While there's no single
MOOC model, the classes often feature some mixture of
short video segments, quizzes, online discussion boards,
and writing assignments graded by peers.
From the start, the global potential of MOOCs was a
large part of what made them so captivating. The most
intense excitement initially surrounded a 2011 course
taught by Sebastian Thrun and Peter Norvig, two renowned computer scientists affiliated with Google and
Stanford University who for several years had taught an
Introduction to Artificial Intelligence class at Stanford.
When the two decided to take their course online and offer it free to students anywhere in the world, they quickly
attracted 160,000 students from 190 countries, despite
very little publicity. There were famously more students
from Lithuania enrolled in the class than they are members of Stanford's entire student body. As Udacity grew,
its students organized "meet-ups" to discuss their coursework in hundreds of cities around the world, from Delhi
to Accra to Tokyo.

Since then, other MOOCs have forged ahead on a massive
scale. HarvardX has already registered more than 1 million students in 193 countries, which is more than the total
number of students that Harvard College has graduated in
its 377-year history. Coursera, the largest MOOC provider,
now offers free courses from more than 100 universities.
Its business model remains uncertain, but it is an attractive enough prospect to have received $43 million in new
funding last July, from investors including the World Bank's
International Finance Corporation and GVS Capital, which
has invested in companies like Facebook and Twitter.
Along with growth has come massive ambition. Thus,
Coursera proclaims a vision of the future in which "everyone has access to a world-class education that has so
far been available to a select few." And MIT professor
Anant Agarwal, president of edX, tells Forbes "It is insane.
We've created dramatic access to learning for students
worldwide." The MOOC booster with the biggest public
megaphone is probably New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman. In a representative column, published
in January 2013, he writes with characteristic assuredness that "nothing has more potential to unlock a billion
more brains to solve the world's biggest problems"-not
to mention lifting people out of poverty and reimagining today's higher education system. Friedman noted that
in the eight months since he first visited Coursera, its
growth trajectory had been extraordinary: from 300,000
students taking 38 courses taught by a small number of
top universities to 2.4 million students enrolled in 214

INTERNATIONAL EDUCATOR M AY + J U N E .14



Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of International Educator - May/June 2014

International Educator - May/June 2014
Contents
Front Lines
In Brief
New Windows on the World
Green River Community College Attracts International Students at an Early Age
Education Abroad
Foreign Student Affairs
Internationalization Leadership
Partnering
View From Out Here
Forum
In Focus
International Educator - May/June 2014 - International Educator - May/June 2014
International Educator - May/June 2014 - Cover2
International Educator - May/June 2014 - Contents
International Educator - May/June 2014 - 2
International Educator - May/June 2014 - 3
International Educator - May/June 2014 - Front Lines
International Educator - May/June 2014 - 5
International Educator - May/June 2014 - 6
International Educator - May/June 2014 - 7
International Educator - May/June 2014 - 8
International Educator - May/June 2014 - 9
International Educator - May/June 2014 - In Brief
International Educator - May/June 2014 - 11
International Educator - May/June 2014 - 12
International Educator - May/June 2014 - 13
International Educator - May/June 2014 - 14
International Educator - May/June 2014 - 15
International Educator - May/June 2014 - 16
International Educator - May/June 2014 - 17
International Educator - May/June 2014 - 18
International Educator - May/June 2014 - 19
International Educator - May/June 2014 - 20
International Educator - May/June 2014 - 21
International Educator - May/June 2014 - 22
International Educator - May/June 2014 - 23
International Educator - May/June 2014 - 24
International Educator - May/June 2014 - 25
International Educator - May/June 2014 - New Windows on the World
International Educator - May/June 2014 - 27
International Educator - May/June 2014 - 28
International Educator - May/June 2014 - 29
International Educator - May/June 2014 - 30
International Educator - May/June 2014 - 31
International Educator - May/June 2014 - 32
International Educator - May/June 2014 - 33
International Educator - May/June 2014 - 34
International Educator - May/June 2014 - 35
International Educator - May/June 2014 - 36
International Educator - May/June 2014 - 37
International Educator - May/June 2014 - 38
International Educator - May/June 2014 - 39
International Educator - May/June 2014 - Green River Community College Attracts International Students at an Early Age
International Educator - May/June 2014 - 41
International Educator - May/June 2014 - 42
International Educator - May/June 2014 - 43
International Educator - May/June 2014 - 44
International Educator - May/June 2014 - 45
International Educator - May/June 2014 - 46
International Educator - May/June 2014 - 47
International Educator - May/June 2014 - 48
International Educator - May/June 2014 - 49
International Educator - May/June 2014 - 50
International Educator - May/June 2014 - 51
International Educator - May/June 2014 - 52
International Educator - May/June 2014 - 53
International Educator - May/June 2014 - Education Abroad
International Educator - May/June 2014 - 55
International Educator - May/June 2014 - 56
International Educator - May/June 2014 - 57
International Educator - May/June 2014 - Foreign Student Affairs
International Educator - May/June 2014 - 59
International Educator - May/June 2014 - 60
International Educator - May/June 2014 - 61
International Educator - May/June 2014 - Internationalization Leadership
International Educator - May/June 2014 - 63
International Educator - May/June 2014 - 64
International Educator - May/June 2014 - 65
International Educator - May/June 2014 - Partnering
International Educator - May/June 2014 - 67
International Educator - May/June 2014 - 68
International Educator - May/June 2014 - 69
International Educator - May/June 2014 - View From Out Here
International Educator - May/June 2014 - 71
International Educator - May/June 2014 - 72
International Educator - May/June 2014 - 73
International Educator - May/June 2014 - Forum
International Educator - May/June 2014 - BB1
International Educator - May/June 2014 - BB2
International Educator - May/June 2014 - 75
International Educator - May/June 2014 - 76
International Educator - May/June 2014 - 77
International Educator - May/June 2014 - 78
International Educator - May/June 2014 - 79
International Educator - May/June 2014 - In Focus
International Educator - May/June 2014 - Cover3
International Educator - May/June 2014 - Cover4
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