Monday, January 28, 2013

Leadership and MOOCs

A couple of weeks ago I attended the "Emerge Leadership Workshop" at NatureBridge in Sausalito, California. This workshop was led by Kathleen O'Brien, John Cunningham, Ann Edminster and David Eiseberg. I found great value in looking at the different dimensions of leadership. Even though the examples and material was drawn form the building industry, the concepts applied to all sectors. In addition to the presentations, there was an amazing group of participants from the for-profit, non-profit, government and education areas. We had time for walks along the beach, reflection, working on case studies in small groups, and the presenting to all the participants. I'm a firm believer that improving the way the we work together in teams and developing our leadership skills is essential to solving the challenges that we face at a local, regional and global level. For more information, check out:

I've also been researching MOOCs (Massive Open Online Course). MOOCs are web courses aimed at large numbers of students with open access. There's a huge wave of interest in MOOCs since some of the larger universities have entered the space. Stanford, Harvard, MIT and many universities are  offering classes through various platforms. Some of the platforms include Stanford's Class2go (open source), Coursera (with nearly 2.5 million members), edX (non-profit started by Stanford and MIT; edX's first class in circuits had 155,000 students), and Udacity. Futurelearn, a British firm, is developing an alliance with 12 UK universities to provide MOOCs. Additional players in the online education space include Khan Academy, which has an incredibly extensive learning modules, and Blackboard which provides online education tools. There are also other firms providing the social networks that facilitate the interaction between online learning communities including GoingOn.

What is interesting about this new online education revolution is that technology now makes it possible to reach millions and potentially a billion or more people with educational content. Many of the MOOCs are free and students from across the globe are enrolling in courses ranging from computer science, database management, history, etc. The potential is there for students to eventually design their own degrees or certificates by taking courses from these well known, prestigious universities.

One of the greatest advantages of MOOCs is that the learning increases dramatically due to the volume and diversity of interaction among the students from countries around the globe. Students enjoy interacting with their peers and learning from their different experiences and points of views. Some of the current challenges with MOOCs involve assessment and creating the necessary infrastructure to manage the sheer volume of questions when courses have tens of thousands of participants. To date, many of the students who enroll in MOOCs do not complete the courses.

Thomas Friedman wrote an insightful piece about MOOCs and online education in his New York Times column (Jan. 26, 2013), "Revolution Hits the Universities." As Friedman points out, "Nothing has more potential to lift more people out of poverty — by providing them an affordable education to get a job or improve in the job they have. Nothing has more potential to unlock a billion more brains to solve the world’s biggest problems. And nothing has more potential to enable us to reimagine higher education than the massive open online course, or MOOC..."

As with many new technologies, its still unclear how the online education market will evolve with these new tools. What's remarkable is how quickly a new education paradigm is unfolding.