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«Submitted to Ontario College of Art and Design University in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Design in Strategic ...»

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The Next Curve It is premature to compare MOOCs with traditional higher education yet, but they certainly represent learning in different forms and settings. Apart from being highly convenient and breaking away from being time-bound or location bound, MOOCs have even shown to supplement higher education through special courses such as the ones launched by edX to earn extra credit or to catch up on missed topics. Finally, diversity builds innovation, and with its discussion forums and international perspectives from a vast number of students, MOOCs could be an invaluable source of knowledge in a globalized world; an environment that no single school could provide. So, it is not only that higher education is changing but also what constitutes a student itself. So, maybe MOOCs would augment the education system rather than replace it altogether; because of their inability to compete with the interactions, the experience and the human touch that universities can provide. But just as libraries evolved into the university, content is just the first step for online courses. Meanwhile, some have already taken

strides to blur the lines:

NovoEd brings in a much needed feature of team projects where small teams meet virtually or face to face, complete challenges and get feedback from peers and mentors. Over 8,000 ideas have been generated so far and the top 20 teams have pitched their ideas to investors and received funding. "We're based on the belief that in this transition from bricks and mortar to online learning, you shouldn’t strip away the social, experiential, and collaborative aspects of education," says founder Amin Saberi.30 "Instead, we use the power of the social web to amplify this."

Additionally TechChange fuses media, technology and social change through inperson studio sessions and online based group projects using simulations and Gamification. Courses include ‘3D Printing for Good’ and ‘Mobile Phones for Public Health’ while making custom course for the UN, The World Bank, UNICEF, Red Cross, International aid workers among others.

Kroton & Brazil Only 57% of children in Brazil finish secondary school and only 14% enroll in higher education31 but Brazil is making great advances by offering higher education economically and rapidly increasing quality; essential in a country where a degree boosts wages by a bigger multiple than in any other country tracked by the OECD. Kroton, its largest for-profit higher education firm is leading the charge through Unopar - the biggest provider of distance higher education with 150,000 students over 500 nationwide centers including ones from most remote parts of Brazil. Through a combination of online classes and weekly seminars at local centres, its handcrafted approach boasts star teachers, franchise 30Najarro, I. (2013, February 20). (ONLINE) Stanford Venture Lab’s MOOCs reach global audience.

Retrieved November 22, 2014, from http://www.stanforddaily.com/2013/02/20/stanford-venture-labsmoocs-reach-global-audience/ 31A winning recipe. (2014, June 28). Retrieved November 16, 2014, from http://www.economist.com/news/business/21605925-two-big-brazilian-education-firms-now-processmerging-show-how-universities-can-do agreements with hundreds of local teaching centres and adaptive learning materials—that react to users’ progress by offering further explanation and examples where answers suggest they are struggling, and moving on swiftly where they are not. This is giving producers instant feedback and helping improve courses in real-time. And to deal with the drop-out rates, students could watch classes broadcasted from the headquarters and a moderated discussion to keep them engaged.32 Blending It In As seen from the examples, some of the successful models are replicating the interactions of universities. The answer that lies in finding the right balance and approach is called Blended-Learning -- where content knowledge could be delivered online so that classes could be conducted in a more collaborative and intimate setting to apply concepts, get critiqued and master core-competencies.

Studies show that it is a highly effective way to learn when executed well33; while the book Blended 34 provides a practical design guide to create blended-learning 32Wealth by degrees. (2014, June 28). (ONLINE) The Economist. Retrieved October 5, 2014, from http://www.economist.com/news/finance-and-economics/21605909-returns-investing-universityeducation-vary-enormously-wealth 33 Freeland, J. (2013, August 21). (ONLINE) Carnegie’s randomized controlled study: Take a victory lap, then continue the research. Retrieved November 13, 2014, from http://www.christenseninstitute.org/carnegies-randomized-controlled-study-take-a-victory-lap-thencontinue-the-research-cycle/ Also: (Chingos, M., & Schwerdt, G. 2014)

Horn, M., & Staker, H. (2014). Blended Using Disruptive Innovation to Improve Schools. Hoboken:


environments. Academicians approve35 with many saying that online-learning is not being represented as much as it should be. Additionally, Mr. Agarwal from edX proposed a blended approach to a four-year degree course which begins with a year of MOOC learning, two years of on-campus learning and the final year working part-time while concluding their degree online. This approach could even pool popular and unique courses from several universities while reducing costs and keeping the value and the sanctity of the degree active.

The Ingredients (Key Takeaways)

- MOOCS have democratized the higher education degree and content globally, replicated and in some cases transcended its counterpart.

–  –  –

- However, it has faced criticism due to low completion rates, absence of a robust accreditation system and lack of support infrastructure in

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- But new wave of iterations like successful university collaborations, allyou-can-learn models, Gamification and simulation, highly economical degree models, customized programs for the UN, World Bank and

–  –  –

35Bichsel, J. (n.d.). The State of E-Learning in Higher Education: An Eye towards Growth and Increased Access. (ONLINE) Retrieved November 22, 2014, from http://eu.montana.edu/online/faculty/teach/pdf/ECAR-State-of-E-learning-June-2013.pdf

- NovoEd, for instance brings team projects with an added incentive of starting companies and getting funded. Using social web to amplify and bring the much needed collaboration in the format.

- Brazil is making great strides by combining distance education with local meet-ups and discussions, instant feedback mechanisms and adaptive learning materials.

- It could even supplement higher education and can bring in highly diverse global perspectives through forums that no single school can.

Even with all this, it still cannot substitute the human touch.

- Therefore, the future, many experts believe, lies in a blended approach of both live and online learning -- Exploring the limits while keeping the sanctity of the degree active.

–  –  –

Use online and offline mediums to amplify impact.

Low costs and integrating with society and systems.

Customizable to each environment and versatile:

–  –  –

A ‘Major’ Problem (Purpose Learning) As the world is getting more globalized and is shifting so rapidly and so is the idea of the college major. Four in Five students in the United States change their major at least once and some do it multiple times.36 And even after that, 73 percent of college students end up working in fields completely unrelated to their majors.37 It is worse when there is no flexibility to change majors other than starting from scratch like it is in most of the emerging world. This leads to a skewed and an unbalanced workforce hindering the innovation in the country apart from the loss of morale and productivity in the workplace.

The diagnosis seems straightforward. Students are not as clear about their future plans, their talents and their passions, as are many adults. But, many may have a problem or a life question that is calling for their attention that they would want to resolve. It may be building seamless prosthetic limbs through 3D printing and or making government departments more transparent through data science. This 36National Center for Education Statistics. (n.d.). (ONLINE) Retrieved November 21, 2014, from http://nces.ed.gov/pubsearch/pubsinfo.asp?pubid=2012026.

37Abel, J., & Deitz, R. (2012, December 3). (ONLINE) Agglomeration and Job Matching among College Graduates. Retrieved November 10, 2014, from http://www.newyorkfed.org/research/staff_reports/sr587.pdf will help them understand the complexities the world throws at them that no single major could help them decipher. Maybe that should be the defining question for new students to ignite a spark in them and clarify the scope of learning and its potential applications in the real world. This spark will raise their tenacity and raise the level of autonomy and accountability; the key ingredients in any great learner. In fact, that is ideally the key objective of education itself -- to address the desire to impact the area of study and their changing behavior patterns to help them get there. The Strategic Foresight and Innovation team at

Stanford expands on this idea in a futures scenario called Purpose Learning:

Purpose Learning 38 Universities require students to declare their majors around set requirements before they have any real world experience, contexts or reference points for their studies.

But what if they could declare missions and couple their disciplinary pursuit with the purpose that fueled it?

“I’m a biology major” was replaced by “I’m learning human biology to build more sustainable food sources.” Or “I’m learning Computer Science and Political Science to rebuild how citizens engage with their governments.” It wasn’t about the career trajectory, but the reasons behind it.

38Purpose Learning. (n.d.). (ONLINE) Retrieved November 3, 2014, from http://www.stanford2025.com/purpose-learning/ This resulted in the changing vernacular on campus as well. “What’s Your Verb?” was the new idiom used as students were inspired by the work they were doing to investigate the kind of impact they were most interested in working toward. They started wearing t-shirts that just said, “To Ignite.” “To Build.” “To Challenge.” “To Persuade.” Soon, this unofficial tagline became the organizing principle for the new portfolios students had to create to graduate. Demonstrating evidence of clarity of purpose and experience creating impact, along with mastery of subject matter was key. The curriculum combined Impact Requirements with Academic Requirements and to facilitate this, Stanford would launch Impact Labs – Global research centers where students and faculty could collaborate with local leaders in authentic, real world challenges.

Unbundling and the Open-Loop “It's time we built a better credential - the only legitimate signal to measure the competency of students; and the key to this is Jailbreaking the Degree,” argues David Blake. His portal Degreed scores and validates lifelong education from both formal (University) and informal (MOOCs, Certificates, Conferences, Media, etc.).

Users can build on their degree to display better patterns and details around their college experience for employers that is organized, searchable and verified. They would then decipher their own hidden passions and guide future projections of their careers through life-long learning and have it all validated. “The diploma and the supporting mechanics (majors/minors, GPA, honors) provide limited information but are steeped societally in an enormous amount of context. We intend to use that context to help the world understand our measurements of the world of informal education”, adds Blake39.

And it is factual. We’re increasingly learning from a diversity of sources, mostly informal/unofficial, which we continue to do for the entirety of our lives.

Unfortunately, everything reverts to the context of formal education. For instance, when people are asked about their education, they talk about where they graduated from. It seems to be the only way we speak about our education, by putting a finite end to it after university but we don't really stop learning.

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