Wednesday, August 15, 2012

MOOCs - free access to great education

MOOCs -- massive open online courses -- have been a large and growing focus of discussion and debate in the higher ed sector for the past few years.  MIT and Stanford have been leading the way making content available online for free and improving the delivery models.

This TED talk from Stanford's Daphne Koller does a great job describing the process and benefits (and limitations) of this new frontier in education.

Access to education is an important sustainability issue:

First, there are all of the basic benefits we think of regarding a better educated population -- more thoughtful and skilled people, being more productive and supporting better quality of life for all, etc.

Second, education is an effective satisfier of basic human needs - primarily that of understanding, but also indirectly of participation, subsistence, identity, and protection.

Finally, education is necessary for people to understand enough about the social and ecological dynamics of 'un-sustainability' -- how we got to the place we are, how the global economic system cumulatively affects social and natural systems, how the basics of biogeochemical cycles work, etc. -- to be able to create a sustainable society.

I don't see MOOCs replacing universities any time soon, but they are a very cool and potentially powerful tool for accelerating progress towards sustainability.

Stay going.

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