I have been overwhelmed by the spread of what some have been calling MOOCs (massive, open, online classrooms). I remain enthusiastic about the potential for an internet-catalized revolution in education, but I think the real missing ingredient isn’t the content, or the scalable assessment tools, which is what these commercial efforts have been focusing on, what’s missing is culture and community.
I think there are interesting parallels to Apple’s WWDC even, which has been selling out in record time:
Many more people want to attend WWDC than the conference can accommodate. There has been no shortage of interesting suggestions for how to fix this. Broadly speaking, WWDC has not changed in decades. Apple and its developer ecosystem, on the other hand, are radically different than they were just five years ago. Something has to give.
Apple has tried to remedy the situation somewhat by putting all the materials online, but it seems that many recognize that this isn’t sufficient because it doesn’t provide the cultural and community benefits of attending WWDC. Right now the practical size of WWDC is partially due to a limit on the available venues in San Francisco, but fundamentally it is the number of attendees to Apple’s engineers, what in education is called the student-faculty ratio. Lower is generally better. Apple, on the other hand, probably doesn’t want to get too big, and definitely doesn’t want to grow to fast because there are limits to the rate at which they can train qualified engineers they can train up in “the Apple Way”