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MOOCs and Other New Realities for Higher Ed

MOOCs and Other New Realities for Higher Ed

In September, 33,000 students enrolled in Modern and Contemporary American poetry, a University of Pennsylvania class offered for free through Coursera. The class was a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC).

Many wondered how a humanities class that relies more on essays than on multiple choice tests would work as a MOOC. Those who tweeted (@ModPoPenn) at the end of the course, calling it “enriching,” “transformative,” and “personal,” thought it worked just fine.

Writes one student (who is also a teacher), “I’ve learned that real community is not only possible but often gloriously, joyously abundant, in the digital world. I’ve learned that teachers and students can walk along side each other in the exploration of ideas, even when the ratio is 11 or 12 to over 30,000 (yes, I said 30,000).”

The MOOC, once experimental, is going mainstream. The rate at which both universities and students are adopting the MOOC model (33 schools and 1.7 million students have signed up since April, according to the Washington Post) is staggering—and telling: Higher education is undergoing monumental changes.

To deepen its understanding of just how those changes will affect learning environments, Herman Miller has been researching it, hosting Leadership Roundtables for leaders in education and design, and conducting focus groups with students and experts. It’s clear to us that there are five primary shifts underway.

  • Students will have more control over their learning experiences; colleges and universities will become more focused on results.
  • Collaboration among peers and interaction with students will become more important than ever as the role of faculty changes.
  • There will be more governance and a focus on success as colleges and universities adopt business disciplines.
  • New ways of learning will dictate what spaces look like and where they are located.
  • The process of learning—both formal and informal—will be a lifelong journey.

What do each of these mean for people, pedagogy, and place? We have ideas on that, too. 

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