What we want to quickly discuss here is the gap between the teaching of a theory and testing somone’s knowledge of that theory , and Casual learning which is the passing on some practical, basic messages – via a short-form video, written article, or audio clip – that may help someone in their personal or profesional life. Its value lies in the ability for these “casual learners” to take something away from the session, and immediately use it in their everyday lives. The test is in practice, not formally.
If casual learning can take place as part of a virtual community of learners who are using those basic lessons in their workplace or wherever, they can come back to that community to discuss how they may have helped them do their job better, solve a problem and share experiences – this drives innovation and new ways of using ideas. This is why casual learning is suited to a mobile or online environment being used by a professional development audience.
In an academic learning environment learners come back to their virtual campus to be graded on their understanding of the theory – not their ability to innovate or change it – requiring tests, and the creation of grading to judge an individuals’ progress. This takes resources and, what’s more, the use of credible resources to fairly grade them.
This is why even an online university requires infastructure and bureacracy that mirrors a “real university” and for what gain? Especially if, as we are now discovering, students may not be learning anyway – preferring to cheat their way through courses that have no actual standing. Distance learning through universities traditionally involves on-campus, supervised testing and sessions for a reason. It gives them credibility and motivation to study and think. But then, of course, they lead to real qualifications and cost real money.
Offering the material of the world’s top theoretical minds is fantastic, but is the MOOC model really one that will work long-term or is all just hype? Will it lead to a more innovative world? Current evidence suggests not.
When news of the plagarism and cheating on the meaningless tests of the meaningless courses comes to light it simply drags the whole concept down from being “changing the face of learning” to that of being “kind of interesting” in the mould of Wikipedia.