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Beyond the MOOC Hype

What new tech trends will knock massive open online courses out of the spotlight this year?

If, as the The New York Times declared, 2012 was "The Year of the MOOC," then 2013 might well be called "The Year of MOOC Hype."

It's always a little sad to see an ed tech innovation with so much potential fall prey to the backlash spawned by overexposure. Though the past year has seen plenty of interesting experimentation with MOOCs — particularly blended models — I can recall more than one presenter at the Campus Technology and Educause annual conferences last year actually apologizing for adding, yet again, the dreaded "M" word to the conversation.

Even legitimate concerns from faculty and academic technologists about the efficacy of MOOC-style learning have been overshadowed by MOOC burnout: a general feeling of, "Please, no, not another MOOC story." I think this might be what Gartner's Trough of Disillusionment feels like.

Yet when Udacity founder Sebastian Thrun revealed in a Fast Company interview that his company is abandoning higher education and moving to corporate training, he managed to recapture our attention in one fell swoop. How can one of the biggest purveyors of massive open online college courses be throwing in the towel? And where do MOOCs go from here?

The truth is, the underlying issues behind MOOCs in higher education are ongoing. As Athabasca University's George Siemens told CT in our cover story, "A year from now we'll be talking about something different from MOOCs, but in my view, we'll still be asking essentially the same questions: How do we teach in digital networked environments? How do we teach when the power balance between a faculty member and a learner is different than it was in the past? How do we teach when learning can be tracked and measured and assessed outside the university or formal education?"

With or without Udacity, MOOCs are still contributing to the exploration of new learning models in higher ed. Like it or not, they will continue to be an important trend for 2014.

MOOCs certainly were a topic of conversation for the five panelists in "What's Hot, What's Not 2014," our third annual roundup of trending ed tech topics for the new year. But for the first time, they were edged out in "hotness" by a new player: adaptive learning. As consultant Phil Hill put it, "The ability to use online technologies to create multiple pathways for students and to personalize learning will be a strength that can even go beyond face-to-face methods."

Can adaptive learning live up to its promise? We'll be watching as early adopters pave the way. Tell us what you think!

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