Yesterday, I and another AAAS fellow organized, ran and attended an all day internal NSF-wide workshop on MOOCs. The two of us started a group (more later) and this was our first outcome.
Obviously, MOOCs, or Massively Open Online Courses, are the 'big thing' lately. Just last week I attended three separate MOOC-related activities, a briefing at the Brookings Institute that included the CEO of ACE and Daphne Koller of Coursera, a PCAST (Presidential Council of Advisors on Science and Technology) meeting that included a report from "the big three" (Thrun of Udacity, Koller of Coursera, Angarwal of Edx) and a talk at NSF by Sebastian Thrun. MOOC MOOC MOOC. Of course I brought this on myself, this immersion.
To get a good run down of the very fast development of the MOOC phenomenon (hype?), check out Hack Education, it's a good blog and they have a good rundown: http://hackeducation.com/2012/12/03/top-ed-tech-trends-of-2012-moocs/
Because it was an internal NSF workshop I can't really relate much of the discussion. NSF has to be cautious about what is said publicly (lest people think they are funding something). But I can give some impressions I had of the day (and the last few months).
1. We've been through this before. http://www.onlineschools.com/in-focus/history-of-online-education
2. MOOCs are NOT 1 year old. The term was coined and the early ones started 4 years ago: http://www.elearnspace.org/Articles/MOOC_Final.pdf
3. Wow it's hyped and wow it's moving fast.
4. There is some promise, great possibilities. The confluence of technologies and innovations seems right, social networks, broadband, acceptance of online ed, etc. Maybe it's different this time? http://www.shirky.com/weblog/2012/11/napster-udacity-and-the-academy/
5. Community colleges, AP classes, continuing ed, they seem to be ripe for MOOCification (side note: i dislike the word MOOC and what I just did turning it to a noun is an abomination :D). EDx announced it isworking with two MA Community Colleges. Udacity and Coursera will soon announce similar collaborations (you heard it hear first ;-). If done right and well, it could help with access and broadening participation. And maybe help save the California Community College system? nearly a half million students want to take classes... but can't. http://www.tonybates.ca/2012/08/29/californias-two-year-college-system-in-deep-trouble/
(or maybe the fact that Dems finally have a supermajority might save the once-top-of-the-world CC system.
6. Maybe MOOCs won't replace universities, but they could very well replace text books.
THere will be more... the group we co-founded (MadTECHEd.. MOOCs and Disruptive Technologies in Education) are planning a symposium in spring.