Sunday, May 20, 2012

Opening Our Eyes and MOOCing To The Future

Kevin Werbach /  May 17th, 2012

This summer, I’ll teach a “massive open online course” (MOOC) on gamification—the use of digital game-design techniques to solve business problems—through Coursera.

I teach this subject to MBAs at Wharton, but this new version will be delivered free, online, and open to thousands of students worldwide through recorded videos and interactive exercises.


The gamification course illustrates an important point about innovation. Startups have two great advantages. [snip]

What if an industry existed where the venerated incumbents didn’t have to worry about investors pushing for steady quarterly returns and customers beholden to dying products? Where sufficient threat of decline motivated innovation, but a collapse was not so imminent to starve the necessary resources? The leaders in that industry would have extraordinary potential for transformative innovation.

The industry I’m describing is higher education in the United States.


Scary because so many trends threaten the entire system: student costs rising as employment opportunities shrink, global competition for the best minds, industries in transformation, new online competition and an epochal shift in communications modalities from paper to screens, just to name a few.

Thrilling because all of these are opportunities in disguise.

Two years ago, Salman Khan was an unknown, former hedge-fund manager posting YouTube math lessons for his relatives. [snip].

Coursera, a venture-backed startup led by two Stanford computer scientists, applies this model to higher education. Penn, Stanford, the University of Michigan and Princeton are Coursera partners. Harvard and MIT just announced a competitor: EdX. [snip].

There are many serious questions about Coursera and its ilk, which I don’t have time to delve into in a short post. My point is not that they are bound to succeed. Quite the contrary: they are impressive because they are so challenging and risky.


If higher education can make this kind of monumental shift, it’s a sign for other industries facing the same innovation challenge.

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