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will make it possible for members to cite their completed
MOOCs in their résumés. Stanford University's (CA) Ven-
ture Lab project has blossomed into NovoEd, which is part-
nering with the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement
of Teaching on MOOC-like approaches to support college-
level quantitative literacy and math skill development. And
Udacity's own partnership with Georgia Tech to offer the
first fully accredited MOOC leading to a low-cost Master of
Science in Computer Science degree is about to bear fruit.
The program was developed in partnership with AT&T and
is set to launch this month.
Siemens has mixed feelings about all the entrepreneurial
activity erupting around MOOCs. He said he was happy ini-
tially to see pioneers like Thrun and Coursera's Andrew Ng
and Daphne Koller "experimenting and trying to stir up the
inertia in the education sector," but the hype generated by
Thrun's branding activities in particular "derailed the qual-
ity conversations" among researchers and educators about
the challenges MOOCs were addressing.
Thrun went on the record early with rhapsodic predictions
about the impact of MOOCs on higher education. "You can
take the blue pill and go back to your lecture of 20 stu-
dents," he told journalist Blake Graham shortly after his first
MOOC experiment at Stanford. "But I've taken the red pill
and seen wonderland." A few months later, he told Wired
magazine that in 50 years, the proliferation of MOOCs
would reduce the number of institutions delivering higher
education worldwide to 10.
This kind of rhetoric cast the MOOC as competition for
traditional colleges and universities, which would eventually
rile faculty and, Siemens argued, obscure the potential of
the model to expand services to students and the commu-
nity. But he also noted that that language has been chang-
ing as MOOCs are increasingly seen less as models that
might replace faculty and more as potential extensions of
No "One Course Format to Rule Them All"
Thrun's announced pivot away from higher ed comes after
San Jose State University (CA) published the initial re-
sults of a much-talked-about experiment with a for-credit
MOOC program developed with Udacity. Disappointing
student performance prompted the school to put the pro-
gram on pause this past fall, with plans to start it up again
this month. Lost in the headlines generated by those re-
sults, Siemens pointed out, is an earlier SJSU program de-
veloped with edX, the joint effort of Harvard (MA) and the
Massachusetts Institute of Technology to create an open
source online learning platform. That program provides edX
courses as optional resources for SJSU professors who
want to use them for flipped classes.
"It added a MOOC layer to existing university activity, and
that produced significantly better results," Siemens said.
"That's the biggest change we're seeing now. It's the blend-
ed model that gets the improved outcomes, that gives the
MOOC a different role --- as a resource that can improve
the quality of the residential university experience, rather
than an entity that competes with it."
Alexander Halavais, associate professor in the School of
Social and Behavioral Sciences at Arizona State Universi-
ty, is a social media researcher, well known higher ed blog-
ger and president of the Association of Internet Research-
ers. He agreed that pitting the MOOC makers against the
colleges and universities, whether part of the plan or a by-
product of the hype, has been counterproductive.
"MOOCs have, at least in the incarnation that has been
especially pushed by Udacity, been hyped to a ridiculous
degree," Halavais said. "In particular, placing them in ten-
sion with a traditional liberal arts classroom, which is a pretty
rare beast, is guaranteed to make them a losing proposition.
It's not about MOOCs replacing courses at liberal arts col-
leges. It's about learning happening across a large number
of institutions and networks in lots of new ways, and making
sense of that new complexity."
Halavais sees the MOOC as "a collection of disruptive
elements sparking something else in the higher ed ecosys-
tem," and doesn't believe the term "evolution" fits in that
context. "MOOC" is shorthand for "experimenting with on-
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