Teacherpreneurs Mentor Edupunks: Open Ed, Equity, & the College Debt Bubble

 Note: This post is the eighth in the nine-part series Teacherpreneurs Mentor Edupunks: Convergence Reshapes Teacher Preparation for Today and the Future and written in the vein of peering into Teaching 2030. Click here to read the previous post on OER, Open Teachers, and the Learning Architect.

The disaggregation of learning is escalating, providing the Open Teacher, the Learning Architect, and other teacherpreneurs an even broader canvass of possibilities, challenging traditional preparation programs to prepare teacher candidates to participate in and lead online learning and Massively Open Online Courses (MOOCs), which are gaining traction, as several “elite” higher education institutions have partnered with the hosting service provider Coursers, including The University of Virginia, John Hopkins University, Stanford University, Princeton University, and Duke University. According to Coursers, they have enrolled 680,000 students, mostly from other countries. Coursers outlined their pedagogical foundation, which includes active learning, peer assistance, and mastery learning. And, the company has further plans to use the platform to augment face-to-face instruction with its partner institutions, akin to the flipped learning model.

This past spring, MIT and Harvard announced a joint venture called edX, which will offer online courses at no cost and where participants can earn a certificate of mastery. edX also welcomes other universities to offer courses through edX.

Harvard President Drew Faust said:

“edX gives Harvard and MIT an unprecedented opportunity to dramatically extend our collective reach by conducting groundbreaking research into effective education and by extending online access to quality higher education. Harvard and MIT will use these new technologies and the research they will make possible to lead the direction of online learning in a way that benefits our students, our peers, and people across the nation and the globe.”

George Siemens, associate Director of Athabasca University’s Technology Enhanced Knowledge Research institute and an early pioneer in MOOC design and delivery, observed, ‘”It’s a natural progression of the Internet influencing and impacting what we thought was a pretty stable field,” he said. “But all it takes is six months of pretty surprising announcements in terms of open-course initiatives, and all of a sudden you can start to picture that education seems to be at the threshold of a very dramatic change.”‘

After investigating what MOOCs will and won’t do, it will be interesting to see how teacher preparation programs transition to their use, if they do. And, surely they will in some fashion. Skepticism surrounds the rise of MOOCs, including how the experience will translate into “real learning” gains for students. Thus, with the upsurge in learning badges and other non-traditional methods documenting content mastery in online and MOOC environments making some folks uneasy, it came as no surprise that Udacity, another MOOC provider, partnered with Pearson in providing “4000 testing centers in more than 170 countries” for those who took Udacity courses. There is a “nominal fee” to take the assessments, which will be multiple choice and short answer.

Equity – the watchword in this democratization of learning via MOOCs and other yet-to-come environments –  is something on which to keep an eye. Martin Snyder, senior associate general secretary at the American Association of University Professors, said “the organization has principles in place asserting that faculty must have control over the constitution of the curriculum and the delivery, structure and assessment of a course.” He also observed:

If this kind of a system takes off, you might have a situation where the very wealthy students go to a campus to interact with real professors, while the rest of the world takes online courses… what appears to be a democratization process might be more aristocratic than democratic.

MOOCs are not relegated to higher education. Google has offered its first MOOC this summer, Power Searching with Google, and, at last count, has over 100,000 registered, according to EdSurge Newsletter 074. Also, educator Verena Roberts’ offers the MOOC “#DigiFoot12: Learn about tracking your digital footprint by using social and digital media, create and develop your PLN, tweet your learning, see what students are already doing with social media, chat about cyberbullying, and learn how to network and connect in your own way.”

These courses are open to everyone, where a teacher provides an experience for learners pursuing passions and the “want-and-need-to-know” emerging model of things to come. Today’s MOOCs will transform by 2030, growing more sophisticated and transforming teacher preparation supported by the future morphing of today’s Hive Learning Networks and the emergence of learning regions.

Open access to quality education could not have come at a better time as student debt is escalating. When learning is open and free, cultural and economic shifts happen. Akin to the housing bubble, the college debt bubble is upon us, pushing traditional education institutions to rethink the way things have always been done. And, it is not lost on university presidents. The Chronicle of Higher Education reported on a joint poll conducted with Pew Research Center that the “rising costs test families’ faith, while 1 in 3 presidents see academe on wrong road.”

Peter Thiel, “co-founder of PayPal and a legendary investor, has a long history of identifying bubbles …and believes that higher education fills all the criteria for a bubble: tuition costs are too high, debt loads are too onerous, and there is mounting evidence that the rewards are over-rated. Add to this the fact that politicians are doing everything they can to expand the supply of higher education (reasoning that the “jobs of the future” require college degrees), much as they did everything that they could to expand the supply of “affordable” housing, and it is hard to see how we can escape disaster.

Further, Anya Kamenetz, author of Generation Debt and DoItYourself University: Edupunks, Edupreneurs, and the Coming Transformation of Higher Education and who wrote about the college debt bubble eight years ago in the Village Voice, now acknowledges that young people are finally fighting back. In her Huffington Post article Generation Debt at the Barricades, she writes:

It took half a generation and a global economic meltdown, but now they finally are. Occupy Wall Street is Generation Debt at the barricades, on blogs, Twitter and Tumblr, expressing their deep sense of betrayal. At the heart of that betrayal, the one issue that comes up over and over again is student debt.

One response to “Teacherpreneurs Mentor Edupunks: Open Ed, Equity, & the College Debt Bubble

  1. Pingback: Teacherpreneurs Mentor Edupunks: Convergence Reshapes Teacher Preparation for Today and the Future | Running the Digital River of Learning

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