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MOOCs Eat Stanford! Harvard Closes!

Given how quickly MOOCs are evolving--and how much hype surrounds them--we all need to pay more attention.

This story appears in the July 2013 digital edition of Campus Technology. Click here for a free subscription to the magazine.

Our annual Innovators Awards issue is one of my favorites. The winners--this year we have nine--represent educators and IT teams that have come up with uncommon solutions to common campus challenges. I particularly like the fact that these creative approaches don't necessarily require scads of money. Indeed, many of the most innovative solutions emerge in spite of--or because of--a lack of funds.

A case in point is San Jose State University, a winner in our Education Futurists category (read the full coverage here). Faced with drastic cutbacks, backlogged course enrollment, and soaring tuition among California schools, SJSU is experimenting with massive open online courses as a way to change the calculus. The key word here is experimenting: SJSU's pilots are intended to help the school find a way forward--a way to fulfill its mission even as the foundations of higher education start to wobble.

San Jose State's blended MOOC pilots are really an innovation on an innovation. I don't think anyone would deny that MOOCs have been the most influential idea in education over the past two years. We have written our share of MOOC stories over the last 12 months, but each week new developments force us to rethink what these online courses mean for higher education.

For example, Coursera's May 27 announcement that it will now serve as a platform for cross-institutional, credit-bearing courses changed the playing field yet again. Is the prix-fixe experience of branded academia truly giving way to buffet-style degrees? While detractors will argue that huge courses warmed by online chafing dishes cannot match freshly cooked fare, MOOC fans will view the same setup as à la carte schooling, where famous academics serve up their finest offerings to eager consumers. Use whatever culinary metaphor you will, only one thing is really clear: The traditional American college plan has become as unsustainable as a daily diet of foie gras.

Yet no one can say with any certainty where MOOC mania will lead. In fact, every time we think we know the answer to one question, it spawns a host of new ones. At CT, we want to play whatever role we can in keeping you up to speed during this period of rapid change. So, starting this month, we are launching "MOOC News and Analysis," a newsletter devoted to all things MOOC (you can subscribe here). In addition, we are devoting the entire August issue of CT to coverage of MOOCs--everything from potential business models to the merits of cMOOCs and xMOOCs.

Ultimately, though, the thorny educational issues posed by MOOCs will be hashed out through countless discussions and arguments--both online and face-to-face. To that end, I invite you to join the conversation on our lively Campus Technology MOOC Community on Facebook.

About the Author

Andrew Barbour is the former executive editor of Campus Technology.

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