Posted by: crudbasher | December 20, 2011

My Definition of 21st Century Learning

The central thesis of this blog is that there are certain inexorable forces that will be transforming education. Most of these come from technology and it’s effects. The following is a list of some of the “clouds” in the approaching stormfront of change.

  1. The Internet allows reorganizations of people and resources along more efficient lines.
  2. This also causes current organizations organized along physical lines to become disaggregated.
  3. By disaggregating products, you can offer customized packages to people becoming more accustomed to seeking a personalized experience.
  4. Knowledge dissemination costs are dropping to essentially zero.
  5. Business models built on knowledge dissemination will vaporize.
  6. The biggest winner in the dawning of the Internet age is the individual, not the organization.

You can add another big factor that I think most people are overlooking:

  1. The increasing rate of change coupled with much longer lifespans is creating a huge need for life long education.
  2. This need is mostly not being met.

Everyone got it? Good. (there will be a test later (j/k))

With all this in mind let’s look at what MIT is cooking up. They are going to be offering some of their courses online and giving a certificate upon completion. I’m sure the cost per student is an order of magnitude lower than a traditional degree seeking student and you can learn the same thing. Tellingly, they are not going to put the MIT name on the certificate. That’s because they understand that their brand is the product they are selling. It’s not the knowledge itself. No, they are very open with that. It’s the degree that has value. (see The Weak Point Of Higher Education)

(cc) camera_obscura

What happens next depends on the economy. If the economy stays poor, businesses will be able to say I only need X number of employees this year so I can afford to limit myself to just MIT grads with degrees. Any business sets the bar high enough to get the best qualified employees they can get. If the supply of grads dries up though, they have to lower the bar.

So what happens if the economy really picks up? There will be demand for graduates which at some point will exceed supply. We managed this in the tech bubble 10 years ago because we had a flood of foreign students who stayed here after graduating. Well, China and India are becoming tech nations too. This time their grads will go back home. Companies at that point will have to look to other pools of talent.

Not only that, it’s hard to expand the physical space at a university. Online learning allows a huge new funding source for universities. Not just for degree seekers; it seems to me that there is a massive untapped market for what I would call “recreational learning”. Many people would like to take a course from time to time because learning in it’s most pure form is actually fun. It it’s pretty cheap, many people would do it. The recent Stanford experiment had 100,000+ people sign up for it. Imagine if you could take a business class online from Warren Buffet for $50? I bet a whole lot of people would do that.

Learning right now is being help captive in the walls of our academic institutions but not for much longer. If the key to success in the 21st century is education (as most people seem to say) then it will escape those confines.

I define 21st century learning as Learning what you want from anyone, anytime, anywhere.

Check out this article and especially note that at the end MIT says they will provide the online software for free to everyone to do the same thing. Awesome!

  • MIT starting offering classes online for certificates

    tags: education technology credentials opensource MIT nell disruptive

    • Millions of learners have enjoyed the free lecture videos and other course materials published online through the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s OpenCourseWare project. Now MIT plans to release a fresh batch of open online courses—and, for the first time, to offer certificates to outside students who complete them.
    • The credentials are part of a new, interactive e-learning venture, tentatively called MITx, that is expected to host “a virtual community of millions of learners around the world,” the institute will announce on Monday.
    • Here’s how it will work: MITx will give anyone free access to an online-course platform. Users will include students on the MIT campus, but also external learners like high-school seniors and engineering majors at other colleges. They’ll watch videos, answer questions, practice exercises, visit online labs, and take quizzes and tests. They’ll also connect with others working on the material.
    • the new venture will apparently create a three-tiered ecosystem, with traditional MIT degrees, for residential students; cheaper MITx certificates, and free OpenCourseWare materials, said Roger C. Schonfeld, Ithaka’s director of research.
    • The core idea of OpenCourseWare—free online content—spread far beyond MIT. The institute hopes this project will also catch on elsewhere. To help make that happen, it will release the MITx open-learning software at no charge, so other educational institutions can adopt it.

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.


  1. Corrections :

    1.- They say courses are free, but if you wish assessment and a certificateat the end you have to pay that.
    That means course is not free.
    2.- They have not only OCW material as it was before. They provide mentors and first in the world automatic essay grading technology which means ” tests ” are obsolete

    It is the greatest venture ever happened to USA.
    It would save HE in USA and the world too.
    Unfortunately people did not understand what a big revolution is this .

    Just think
    Cost is nill
    Quality is greatest in the world.

    People say but there is no name of MIT.
    Who cares I know it is done by MIT .
    I do not mind it is certificate. To me it is equal to BA degree .

    So I put the name TIM Certificate = MIT BA

    Just imagine ” introduction to economics 101 ” course .
    Development to MIT is say even $ 1,000,000
    Then but it is taken by 1,000,000 people in the world out of 200,000,000 HE students , then cost per person is only $ 1.
    I say MIT sell it at $ 10

  2. Greatest Education Revolution by MIT
    1.- MIT will provide online courses undergraduate level
    2.- They will be named MITx . I call it TIM . A better name .
    3.- MIT will award certificates. If it is from MIT it is as valuable as a degree from MIT .

    My proposals to MIT :

    1.- Provide 10 certificate programs every year incresing by 10 every
    year reaching to 100 programs in 10 years .
    2.- Target 100,000 students in first year then increase every year
    by 1-2 million reaching to 50 million in the world in 10th year .
    3.- Charge only $ 10 per course or at most $ 20
    Use credit cards for easy collection of $ 10 s
    Your annual income will be from $ 1 million in first year to
    $ 1 BILLION in 10th year
    4.- Put the name as
    TIM Certificate of Marketing
    TIM Certificate of Mechanical Engineering

    We employers will know the value of that.

    5.- Everybody will understand that TIM Certificate = MIT BA
    6.- Start with most popular programs such as business, engineering
    7.- Promote your assets, such as AUTOMATİC ESSAY GRADING
    providing mentors. Most people still think you offer the old OCW
    material .
    8.- MIT appeals to whole world you can get immediately 1 million
    students in first year .
    9.- Never sacrifice from quality. If a student cannot do your standards
    just kick them out .
    10.- MIT standards are too high for millions .
    MIT standard is 800 SAT score.
    Set new certificate standards at 500 SAT score .
    Do not forget you do not raise scientest at TIM certificate
    you raise people to make living with their certificate
    Now you are a teaching university not a research university .
    But still the best one .

  3. […] how kids are playing games on cell phones as much as they can. I also had a post about how I define 21st century learning this […]

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