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edX CEO Anant Agarwal Describes Unbundling of Higher Education

Anant Agarwal did a 15-minute radio interview with Here and Now where he painted one scenario how MOOCs could change the model for higher education (he also reiterated this vision in this Financial Times MBA blog chat).

“Imagine that a student comes into college having done their first year of college as MOOCs and online — possibly even for free. And they come in and they get credit for those first year of courses. They spend two years on campus, and then rather than spending the fourth year on campus, they go outside, get a job and become continuous learners for the rest of their lives. So a continuous education system like this could solve many problems. It will allow people to get just-in-time education on topics that are on the cutting edge of technology and learn as they need to learn…”

Notice two things here. First, universities are still present, with the campus experience, and in fact are envisioned as a hub for future lifelong learning. This is a more workable vision of the university supporting alumni learning than the current patchwork of extension courses and special programs that exist today. Second, this is a new type of “blended” learning–not just mixing online and live instruction together in a class, but mixing these methods at different stages of the learners lifecycle.

It seems fashionable now for pundits to distance themselves from the “disrupting higher education” hype from 2012, and predict uncertain or minor changes. Now, of course as the CEO of edX, Anant has to paint a somewhat revolutionary vision for the role of MOOCs. But here he has put forth a provocative model, and it would be nice to see the gallery of distinguished higher education experts put forth more creative ideas to explore.

“I believe that large lecture halls will be replaced by small learning and collaboration spaces.” 

Six Advantages of Online Learning

Bonus: Anant describes 6 advantages of online vs. in-person lecture-based learning: