Worst case scenario in massive online learning: what are the risks of an increasing reliance on large scale learning environments in our educational systems?

A couple of days ago I had a small elevator talk with a professor:

– How are things?

– Great, I am taking a class.

– Which class/where?

– Massive online education/HGSE.

– Hm…

– Well, the education is going massive to some extent, this is the reality today.

– I hope I’ll still have my job.

This last phrase made me wonder. What is the worst case scenario in massive online learning? I’ve already set my opinion that in order to benefit from MOOCs (and any online learning sources, frankly), one has to know what to look for, have an internal motivation to learn, to absorb. That said, MOOCs are not panacea and I agree with Bill Gates to some extent, where he says that maybe the excitement (and fears) about MOOCs are exaggerated. I personally think that MOOCs should be taken as is: they exist, they provide information and access. They are fabulous for those with curious minds and motivation. They are not panacea, however, they are not miracle which make all learn in an instant.

What if, though. What if MOOCs were replacing traditional higher education? There is fear of just this.

Ok, the worst case scenario to me is something like this: all higher education is replaced by massive online learning. Grading, instruction, forums, peer review, labs, anything imaginable is done remotely without any human participation in the process (other than the initial recording of an actual professor/teacher). Mass production of de-humanized information processing is the worst case scenario for me.

But, realistically thinking, I stick with a healthy balance of liking the MOOCs for what they are: nothing more, nothing less.

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