Clay Shirky: On Napster, Udacity and the Role of MOOCs in Higher Education
Last week, during a relaxing morning, I happened across a great article by Clay Shirky entitled Napster, Udacity, and the Academy. It kind of blew me away. So much so that I’ve been thinking about it, ever since.
Shirky’s article traces how the mp3 changed the way we interact with music, and from there leaps to propose that our colleges and universities are on the verge of a similar shift.
When the mp3 format first came out, it was dismissed as a sub-standard format: the quality wasn’t comparable to what you would get from a CD. But the mp3 format had the ability to reach a greater audience at a lower cost, and the rest (Pandora, Last.fm, Rdio) is history.
Shirky goes on to talk about MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses), and how they’re able to reach a wider audience beyond the boundaries of our existing/physical campuses:
Here’s a crazy fact: in 2011, two Stanford professors (Peter Norvig and Sebastian Thrun) taught an online course called Introduction to Artifical Intelligence. Of the 160,000 students who signed up, only about 23,000 completed it. And while the success rate isn’t so great, the sheer number of students they were able to educate in one pass is absolutely staggering. Looking back, Thrun said: “Peter and I taught more students AI, than all AI professors in the world combined.”
While many view online courses to be inferior to “real” courses, Shirky argues that the very openness of online courses enables them to be improved upon:
Ok. There’s too much great material in his article, and I’ll likely just end up quoting the whole thing if I don’t stop. I’m very interested to see what my friends (who are still teaching and involved at the university level) think of all this.
The article is well worth a read, and I highly suggest you give it a look (even if you’re not in school, or not involved in higher education). It’s pretty fascinating.
With free online services like Duolingo and Udacitypopping up with greater frequency, who knows what the future has in store for education? But the overall message seems to be that it’s good news for anyone who wants to learn.