This report examines the emergence of the Massively Open Online Course (MOOC) and its impact on business schools. Business schools provide a bundle of benefits to students, only one of which is learning specific academic subjects. The focal technology relevant to business schools is not the MOOC but rather a technology embedded within the MOOC — chunked asynchronous video paired with adaptive testing, a technology we call “SuperText.” The SuperText technology opens up at least three pathways for business schools. Via one pathway, SuperText allows institutions to serve more students better and/or more efficiently. Via a second pathway, institutions can serve existing students with fewer faculty members. Along a third pathway, the functions of a business school are unbundled and business schools as we know them are substantially displaced by alternatives. These pathways can be thought of as a menu of options for a business school contemplating how to use the new technologies. Alternatively, these pathways are scenarios that could unfold with or without the active participation of an institution. Although our focus is on business schools, we believe the analysis is relevant to higher education more generally.
In an interview with the Chronicle’s Wired Campus, this is the scenario he suggested:
“A long time can elapse between learning a chunk of knowledge and applying it,” write the two professors. They compare a Wharton degree to a Swiss Army knife: “You buy it today to use one day, but you know neither when you will use it nor which part of the knife you will use first.” More often than not, they say, students experience graduate school and its benefits in this order: “learn-learn-learn-certify-wait-wait-wait-deploy.”
Buying the whole knife upfront made sense when taking courses required students to move to Philadelphia. But the professors, who are among those at Wharton who have been experimenting with MOOCs, are increasingly convinced that online courses can be sufficient to teach specific skills to capable, invested students.
Like it or not, we are all faced with these choices …