Thursday, January 31, 2013

They were bullish on MOOCs at the Davos World Economic Forum

One of the stars of the Davos World Economic Forum was 12 year old Khadija Niazi from Lahore, Pakistan, who completed the Stanford artificial intelligence MOOC when she was 11 and has taken Udacity and Coursera courses subsequently.

Ms. Niazi participated in a Davos roundtable discussion entitled "RevolutiOnline.edu - Online Education Changing the World." You can get a sense of the perceived importance of MOOCs by reading through the list of roundtable participants shown here, and you watch the roundtable video here or below.

University presidents and founders of the big three US MOOC companies who met at Davos were generally upbeat and predicted radical disruption in higher education. For example, the the presidents of Harvard, Stanford and MIT all acknowledged that the experiments in new models of online learning will soon radically disrupt higher learning.

The Huffington Post reported that one expert suggested many universities are facing the early days of bankruptcy and another predicted there may only be 10 universities that survive the MOOC transition.

We have pointed out that the online education market is global and MOOCs will be offered by universities and other organizations in many nations and languages. Representatives of Russia's Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology, Oxford and Cambridge in Britain and Chinese universities were at Davos.

Ms. Niazi's story reminds me of the story of the young mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan, who rose to fame after writing Professor G.H. Hardy at Cambridge from his village in Southern India. His first two letters to Hardy are said to have been returned unopened -- tomorrow's Ramanujan will have an easier time of it. How many Ramanujans will we find enrolled online and what will be their contribution to humanity?

Read more Davos coverage in the New York Times, Huffington Post and the Harvard Business Review. (If you only look at one of these articles, make it the one in the Harvard Business Review).