1.2.5 Reaching Scale through Massive Open Online Courses?

2012 has been the year of the Massive Open Online Course (MOOC)—university-level courses offered in a rich online content environment by faculty from world-class U.S. universities, for free, at least for the moment.  Following the successful teaching of Stanford University’s Artificial Intelligence course to over 160,000 enrollees in 2011, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s decision to fund the YouTube sensation “Khan Academy,” universities and partners have rushed to develop infrastructure to offer courses to eager learners worldwide. Prominently, Coursera (www.coursera.org)—which includes Stanford, Michigan, University of Pennsylvania, Johns Hopkins, and Princeton, among others—and Ed-X (www.edx.org) initiated by Harvard and MIT with UC-Berkeley and the University of Texas system, are rushing to make broad academic disciplines available to the world.

HP is one company that emphasizes innovation in online teaching. As Gabrielle Zedlmayer commented at the 2012 Conference, “Moving university education online will require innovative teaching platforms, clear certification guidelines, and connection with employer demand. Online teaching requires dynamic and interactive platforms for learning—having students download a syllabus is not enough.” Philip Auserwald, an Associate Professor for Public Policy at George Mason University, predicts technology will disrupt universities the same way it disrupted the newspaper industry.  Many universities may not be able to adequately harness technology in order to increase collaboration, learning, creation, and entrepreneurship.

Bright Ideas: HP Supports Online Learning Innovation to Improve Education Access and Quality

HP supports several innovative approaches to improving online learning. HP partners with the University of the People, the world’s first tuition-free online university, to cover the admission and exam costs of one hundred women with as they pursue degrees in business administration and computer science. Scholarship recipients are paired with female HP employees for mentoring.
For more information about University of the People, see http://www.uopeople.org/.

HP’s Catalyst Initiative focuses on innovations in STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) and STEM-related education. An example is iLab, which involves a partnership with Northwestern University and other research laboratories around the world. Through iLab, students and educators access experimental facilities via remote online laboratories that enable students to use real instruments, rather than simulations, to carry out experiments from anywhere at any time. Unlike conventional facilities, iLabs can be shared and accessed widely by audiences across the world that might not otherwise have the resources to purchase and operate costly or delicate lab equipment.
For more information see, http://www.ilabcentral.org/
For more information about HP, see www.hp.com/social-innovation

While assessment and certification of learning are still in the experimental phase, the floodgate of MOOCs is open, promising to raise the instructional bar for post-secondary institutions worldwide while opening a world of possibilities for eager learners who have access to basic IT infrastructure. MOOCs promise to bring quality instruction, potentially massive scale, and falling instructional costs. However, significant challenges remain in determining how to harness these to educate less advantaged and at-risk program clients and youth with basic skills deficiencies, as well as how build instructor capacity in public and private systems.

This chapter reveals that while the workforce development sector is evolving to more effectively support young people in their efforts to obtain decent jobs in diverse contexts, multidimensional challenges remain that require cross-sectoral solutions, political will, and a constant dedication among stakeholders in this sector to exchange learnings and build the evidence base. Broadly speaking, all stakeholders need to be planning for scalability, sustainability, and the systemic impact potential of youth workforce development initiatives. A more consistent focus is needed at the systemic level to bridge the skills gaps, prepare young people for current and future jobs, and support innovation that enables large numbers of young people to access the quality and relevant education and capacity building that actually leads to jobs. This effort requires collaboration among programming, policymaking, and employer interests, along with recognition that stand-alone projects will not address the jobs crisis.