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Monday, December 17, 2012

Disruptive innovation: Open online courses are changing education forever

"When the first movable-type printing press began churning out books in 1439, knowledge that belonged to an elite few flowed to masses of hungry learners." writes .

Photo: Deseret News

This year, something similar happened. Select courses taught at places like Stanford on subjects like physics were offered for free online, meaning that a level of education once available only to Ivy League-level college students is now an option in places like Pakistan, Ghana and Tibet.

These courses, called Massive Open Online Courses (or MOOCs) make education cheaper and more accessible, but some say they have potential to undermine the current profit model.

"This transition to digital learning is as significant as when we first began to learn from books," said Karen Cator, director of the U.S. Office of Educational Technology. "Now we have a whole new opportunity to learn, with expert explanations, simulations and models of complex ideas. It's interesting and exciting, and it also needs continued research."
What's a MOOC?

Several companies offer online courses
taught by professors at top schools.
Photo: Deseret News 
Online classes have been around for decades, providing a convenient, if rather dull, learning environment for correspondence courses and basic education. MOOCs have much more going for them: the ability to turn a Harvard professor's best course into a global learning community via the Internet, usually at no cost to the learner.
To get an idea of what a typical MOOC is like, the nine-week Introduction of Astronomy course available through the Coursera website at is a good place to start. The class is taught by Duke University physics professor Ronen Plesser, whose video course introduction paints a glowing picture of a splendorous universe. Tests and assignments are graded automatically, and the course workload takes six to eight hours per week. No college credit is given, but students can pay to get a certificate proving they completed the course.
Source: Deseret News