Thursday, July 11, 2013

Four ways we can experiment with MOOCs -- Blackboard joins the fray

Provosts of 13 universities recently announced that they would be working together to take advantage of "new technologies and course redesign" to "improve instructional quality, enhance student learning outcomes, and extend the reach of campus instructional offerings."

It sounds like they want to keep open the option of remaining independent of the currently-dominant, well-funded, expensive MOOC platforms Udacity, Coursera and edX. How might a university do that? There are at least four alternative platforms, two of which are offered as hosted services:
  • Blackboard just announced that they will be hosting a new MOOC platform, which would be available free to existing Blackboard customers.
  • Blackboard competitor Canvas has a hosted MOOC platform that allows teachers to build modular courses with video lectures, quizzes, analytics, groups (inside the system or using external resources like Google Docs or Skype), etc.
There are also two open source platforms, which could be hosted by a university or other organization:
I do not know of any sites hosting Course Builder or EdX, but would not be surprised to see some in the future. For example, I can imagine (wish for) Google integrating Course Builder with some of their other services -- Docs, YouTube, Plus with hangouts on air, and Groups -- and offering a significant platform for developing and delivering courses.

We need these and other do-it-yourself alternatives to the major MOOC platforms -- the industry will eventually consolidate, but it is too soon to do so now. In the meantime, let a thousand flowers bloom.



In this interview, Jay Bhatt, Blackboard CEO says they will up spending on software development and sees MOOCs as one point on a contiuim, with support for on campus degree programs at the other. He welcomes competition from Google and others as it will push the entire industry to improve.

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