The first was a conversation I had with a learning professional
in a major corporation who told me that they were trying to figure out how to best
curate online content, including content from MOOCs (aka, massive open online
courses) for their employees.
The second was an article about how the online learning content
platform Udemy was able to raise $12 million
in series B financing. That site allows instructors to post videos,
presentations and the like so students can take courses across a wide range of
categories. Some of the content is offered for free, and some is behind a
paywall. It has a very entrepreneurial model. TechCrunch
reports, “Udemy has attracted about 400K registered students and a quarter of
its approved instructors have made at least $10K from selling their courses on
the site — with some even seeing six-figure earnings.”
The third piece of information came in my Sunday newspaper
(yes, an actual paper edition) in the form of an
articleby my alma mater’s president. In it, he defended the virtues of a traditional four-year
liberal arts education while baldly stating that “the notion that online
courses constitute a real alternative to a traditional college education…is
about as close to nonsense as you can get.”
His piece made me both nostalgic and wistful: nostalgic
because I was the beneficiary of the kind of intimate but intense college
education he champions, and wistful because it’s clear to me that such articles
are inevitable signs of a passing age. When he refers to online education as “the
latest education fad,” how can we avoid conjuring up all those 1990s articles
about how the Internet itself was a fad?
Online courses are likely to change not just the future of college
education but of learning in general. In fact, TechCrunch notes that Udemy “recently began to partner with
universities to offer leadership development solutions, and it wouldn’t be
surprising to see Udemy continue to begin more aggressively pursuing B2B
offerings, like enterprise training or education solutions for employers.
The conventional paradigms are rapidly morphing into
structures that are hard to predict. Of course, four-year colleges with live instructors
and real classrooms will not disappear overnight. But when college presidents
take the time and make the effort to critique online innovations as fads, you
know there’s a sense of threat in the air.
It reminds me of something I learned years ago when I was
getting my own degree: it is the story of King Canute, who had his throne
carried down to the sea and then commanded the tide not to wet his robes. The
sea, of course, drenched him (which was probably Canute’s point, by the way,
because he then proclaimed how seas obey eternal laws rather the power of
Likewise, however nostalgic we become about the educational
and instructional approaches of the past, we can be sure the tides of history
and technology will continue to surge, changing the ways all of us learn.
- Mark Vickers
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Mark Vickers, senior analyst for L & D, writes about how learning and talent development are fast becoming the last, best sustainable competitive advantages for businesses and individuals alike. Janet Clarey, senior analyst for L & D, writes about the changing learning landscape with the goal of helping learning professionals produce results.
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