MOOCs have gone through the hype cycle, had no impact on K12 education

A recent post highlighted concerns about recent media attention on virtual reality and over-hyped state initiatives to individualize learning. In this context, it’s worth reviewing a couple of recent articles that explore the downsizing of expectations related to massively open online courses (MOOCs).

First, EdSurge reports that MOOC company Udacity Official Declares MOOCs ‘Dead’ (Though the Company Still Offers Them). The key quote comes from Udacity vice president Clarissa Shen, who said

“MOOCs are a failed product, at least for the goals we had set for ourselves,” she told the newspaper. “Our mission is to bring relevant education which advances people in careers and socio-economic activities, and MOOCs aren't the way.”

Larry Cuban, frequent critic of technology in education, weighs in with “Whatever Happened To MOOCs?

“What erupted in 2012 was a lava flow of MOOCs from elite U.S. universities accompanied by hyperbolic language and promises for the future of higher education becoming open to anyone with a laptop. Since 2012, that hype cycle has dipped into the Trough of Disillusionment and only now edging upward on the Slope of Enlightenment. Verbal restraint and tamed predictions of slow growth, smart adaptations, and commercial specialization have become the order of the day. And, fortunately, a humility about the spread and staying power of innovations initially hyped o[n] steroids. All in five years.”

It’s clear that the MOOC hype has ended, and quite quickly as Cuban points out. And while MOOCs were mostly associated with post-secondary education, they were held by some people as potentially transformative in K-12 education too. Some said that “MOOCs may be more appropriate for pre-university learners (K-12), than simply as a means of taking university courses online.” About 5 years ago, MOOCs were gaining enough attention in K-12 education that we included analyses of MOOC activity in the 2013 and 2014 Keeping Pace annual reports, including noting that Florida was studying their viability for widespread use.

Certainly there were many people along the way who questioned whether MOOCs would have much impact on K-12 schools. As usual, most of those were in districts, state agencies, or other organizations working closely with educators. And Florida’s approach of studying whether MOOCs could help education appears to have been the right response, partly because the folks at the Department tasked with the study were so knowledgeable about online learning that they were not caught in the hype.

Still, it’s important that the demise of MOOCs be noted, because their failure won’t be as hyped as their promise once was.