Entrepreneurship@Cornell Celebration 2013
Disruptive Innovation in Education
Panelists discuss challenges and outlook for online education
Massive open online courses (MOOCs), distance classes that operate on a large scale and provide interactive participation to learners via the Internet, are perceived as disruptive innovation emerging in education. This new model of education, which has the potential to radically change the current education system, was the focus of a Johnson-sponsored panel at Entrepreneurship@Cornell Celebration 2013: Disruptive Innovation in Education, moderated by Ralph Terkowitz ’72, general partner at ABS Capital Partners.
Wallace E. Boston, CEO of American Public University System, pointed out that current MOOCs (such as Coursera, Udacity, and edX) are not yet designed for measuring learning outcomes and lack the adaptive learning component. On the other hand, MOOCs have huge potential. According to Christopher Proulx '91, CEO of eCornell, if the developers and instructors can utilize data from online discussions and assignment feedbacks, they will be able to "change course models based on how people interact with each other" and how people are doing on each assignment.
Another potential way to harness the benefits of user data is to pair up students in the same geographical area, thereby engaging students in social interaction, says Proulx. Indeed, the human interaction component of online education is indispensable to counter the detachment created by distance learning. Brian Kannry ’95, principle of Court Square Ventures, cited two examples of universities trying to engage their students who are taking online courses. Harvard University has reached out to their alumni to serve as mentors to students, and Stanford has set up a new platform for students to work on projects together instead of just completing multiple-choice tests.
The use of online lectures is also changing pre-college education. Victoria Van Voorhis, founder and CEO of Second Avenue Software, had observed a trend whereby individual teachers ask students to watch lecture videos at home and then guide the students in the classroom, transforming the role of teachers from the "sage on the stage" to "guide on the side," as she put it.
One of the biggest dilemmas facing the MOOCs is whether to offer students credit for courses. As Boston points out, offering credits for current MOOCs, which are typically free and open to the public, would mean handing out university-branded credentials to virtual students while students who sit in university classrooms pay the high price of tuition for the same credits. However, if developed properly, MOOCs have the potential to "replace standard general education courses and substitute them with a much lower cost."" This is also likely to upset the current education model, says Boston, since those courses create high margins for higher education.