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Your Name and Title:

John Hibbs, Skipper

School, Library, or Organization Name:

Ben Franklin and Global Learn Day

Co-Presenter Name(s):

Vance Stevens (Higher Colleges of Technology, Abu Dhabi Men's College, UAE)

Country from Which You Will Present:

USA (Oregon) and UAE (Abu Dhabi)

Language in Which You Will Present:


Target Audience (such as primary school teachers, high school administrators, students, etc.):

General audience: anyone interested in engaging in ubiquitous always-on anywhere-learning

Short Session Description (one line):

Going from the assumption that the MOOC model is a powerful precursor to ubiquitous always-on anywhere-learning, this presentation examines the current status of MOOC-like courses and projects their impact on one sector in particular: ESOL and language learning

Full Session Description (one paragraph minimum):

OUR ARGUMENT: Massive Open On-Line Courses (MOOCs) will change the entire landscape of education. Here s why:

For the first time in all human history a combination of technology, enterprise, and a common lingua franca suggest that within this decade every adult, everywhere, will have access to courses and full degree programs from fine universities from around the world. Free to the student. Free to the taxpayer. (or very nearly so.)

 This has been a long time coming. A quick recap helps to make our case.

 From Baseball to Bugs Bunny to Harvard

 THE FIRST STEP in the crossing of the free Rubicon came with radio. In the 1920′s Madison Avenue, Budweiser and baseball fans were the big winners, along with those with commanding voices and the talent to verbally paint what was happening on the field.

All of it was like silk stockings on Marilyn Monroe…..

………a powerhouse of unimaginable consequence.

Then in the 1950′s came television and with the “magic” of Bugs Bunny right to very tiny, very expensive t.v. -- so grainy and so limited in broadcast bandwidth if you weren't alive then you couldn't imagine the excitement.

Next, in less time than it took for radio to go from its invention to when it was in universal use, television progressed from fuzzy black and white to full living color. Available not just on flat-screen televisions the size of a Volkswagen; but also on your computer, your phone, your favorite tablet. Here, there and everywhere. It brought us Armstrong from the moon, the Olympics from Tokyo to London, and every sporting event of any consequence.

Then came the Net and in the last two decades, the explosion of thousands of Web delivered on-line courses (and full degree programs) from providers with peer-reviewed credentials and full accreditation blessing)  With variety as wide as the Atlantic, why make the trek to Oxford or Cambridge when what was on offer was right at your fingertips?

And now come MOOCs….FREE college courses from elite universities “open” to anyone, anywhere.

Why the “history lesson”?  To remind ourselves that ever since we took that first byte of the “free” apple , and ever since technology, consumerism, enterprise and innovation have combined to lower prices and improved the product, that these same forces apply equally to the whole wide world of education.

A good thing too. Out of these orchards is the richest fruit known to man – a quality education. Yes, it’s priceless, and deservedly so.

Now, about our Presentation

The New Frontier of MOOC’s – THE 21st Century Game Changer

First things first. What’s a MOOC?

MASSIVEClass sizes ranging from 5,000 to 100,000

OPEN:  To anyone, anywhere

ON-LINEAccess  virtually everywhere

COURSES: From some of the most elite universities in the world. (And just about everyone that wants to pile on.)

Now, today, at this writing, MOOCs are no longer a question of whether, but when? They are no longer a question of Change; but what size on the Richter Scale?

So let s talk about what is not on the Hibbs/Stevens Presentation Agenda.

  • We will not argue that MOOCs are the next best thing for education since the invention of the candle.
  • Nor will we argue that MOOCs are the worst thing since the burning of the Alexandria Library (which incidentally is now digitizing its holdings.)

In the time allotted we will try to limit the crux of our presentation to these two issues:

  1. What is the gravest risk to the whole MOOC undertaking?
  2. Who can be the greatest beneficiaries of MOOCs?

The gravest risk is the headlong pace of MOOC deliveries (provided by newly launched for-profit platforms), That headlong rush is putting at great risk the brand image of the University, and of MOOC.

The hard, inarguable fact is that these deliveries don’t come within a country mile of the standards that really good,  long-established, on-line providers have been executing for a good number of years. (Many of the providers are well  known to the authors.) Worse, these deliveries don’t come within a country mile of the”normal” standards of the universities that are providing the courses. Yet little attention is being paid to extensive, well-documented questions and complaints that come directly from students themselves.

Add to that the extraordinary number of universities that have jumped on the “partnership” band wagon.

How in the world can any single platform provider, with a staff smaller than most chemistry departments, with extremely limited “hands on” delivery experience, possibly roll out hundreds of classes, for a million (plus) students – with the excellence expected?

The answer is they can’t. And they are not. Machine-learning will come; the deliveries will improve; the campus itself will be a tremendous beneficiary. But to think this will happen before a university board member, or provost, starts asking the same questions we are… yelling HALT! Where are the metrics? Show me the retention rates? Why are we risking an image which has taken more than century to build — for the sake of what???  Where is the benefit to us???

Will the MOOC baby be thrown out with the bath ?

This outcome would be an horrific shame!  Bus the fixes are not hard. Mostly, what needs to be done is what good educators always do very well: PAY ATTENTION TO THE STUDENT.

These problems are akin to the proverbial canary in the mine-shaft. Not fixed, thus they could be labeled as the Achilles Heel of the MOOC. A few bad apples could damage the whole  orchard.

The elephants that MOOCs need to ride come with names like Stanford, Yale and Princeton; they also come with names like the University of Oregon, Washington, Indiana and Hawaii. These are the magnets and the nutrients which draw so many millions of highly motivated individuals from all over the world. The platform providers need to nourish and care for those “elephants”, or the whole undertaking suffers setbacks that need not be. (Made worse when those publications not favorable to MOOCs — Chronicle of Higher Education, Time Magazine, Forbes, New York Time – start singing  a different tune).


Second Issue of our Presentation

Who can most benefit from MOOC participation?

Tentatively, we advance the idea that Special Interest Groups (SIGs) can benefit from  partnerships  with the Universities for the great benefit of both. We submit that the SIGs most likely enjoy these benefit will be advocacy groups with issues of wide, global imperative.

Two examples: Climate Change and Healthy Oceans. Picture if you will, oceanography courses from Scripps University tied to outreach by those in the business of protecting the Ocean. We intend to touch on this kind of possibility.


In particular, we will focus on a discussion by ESOL teachers as to the role of MOOCs in this arena. The governments of the USA and UK promote English languages classes around the world. They do this in the belief that through those classes they will reach the future leaders in their respective communities. There are many other compelling reasons for promoting ESOL, including meeting the escalating demand for language instruction.

This is a very substantial opportunity where the MOOC concept could reach millions of prospective students and help them maximize their opportunity for success.


Vance Stevens, has been involved with ESOL for four decades and leads a community of practice whose over 1000 members are also predominantly engaged in ESOL and foreign language learning. This presentation will seek to engage this community in the live online discussion as a means of further exploring the affordability of MOOCs in the fields of ESOL as well as other languages besides English.

John Hibbs was the driving force behind Global Learn Day, a 24 hour non-stop webcast with presenters from all 24 time zones. (His passions include Healthy Oceans, sailing and Oregon Duck football.)

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