MOOC report heralds disruptive education revolution

Wednesday, 31 July 2013  Features

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are leading the greatest upheaval in university education since the advent of the printing press according to a new report co-authored by Geoffrey Garrett, the Dean of the Australian School of Business at UNSW Australia, and Sean Gallagher the Chief Operating Officer of the United States Studies Centre at the University of Sydney.

It has been released this week to coincide with a major Sydney conference examining the rise of MOOCs and the ramifications for traditional higher education.

As part of the conference, a public forum at the Park Hyatt in Sydney features the only public event with Coursera co-founder Daphne Koller during her Australian visit. It will feature a moderated conversation with business and academic leaders on the future of technology enabled higher education. Speakers include UNSW Vice Chancellor Professor Fred Hilmer AO, Andrew Stevens, the Managing Director of IBM Australia and New Zealand, and Professor Geoffrey Garrett.

Professor Geoffrey Garrett said "MOOCs are online courses from some of the world's best universities, including UNSW. These are offered online free of charge, and come complete with tutorials, materials and tasks. This means that anyone anywhere anytime can access high quality higher ed​ucation at no or low cost."

In their report Professor Garrett and Dr Gallagher document the exposition in technology-driven education experimentation now occurring, from leading international players such as Coursera and EdX, to universities like Stanford and Harvard, to domestic start-up innovators including UNSW's Smart Sparrow. He said "although prophets of doom envisage a MOOC tsunami sweeping away the ivory tower, we see a very bright future for the place-based university - so long as we focus on what is precious about face to face interactions that cannot be commoditised online".

The report identifies possible future directions and highlight the implications for universities in Australia and around the world, including:

MOOCs are here to stay
Interactive online degrees are the modern equivalent of distance education
Place-based university degrees have a bright outlook provided technology is fully integrated at all stages, beginning with the classroom.

The report was produced with the support of NSW Trade and Investment and can be downloaded here.