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  • Jeremy J. Wade

Will there be a future Netflix for education?

MOOCs might be dead, but the data they generate is powering the future of learning.

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the future of education and learning. It’s clear to most that today’s educational system is incompatible with the needs of the modern student. I’ve written in the past on this arguing for Universities to evolve to meet the needs of the future.

Online education appears to offer a way forward. But many challenges remain. Most online learning today deprives students of the real benefits of being in a classroom, such as teacher-student human interaction. Those without a reliable internet connection or electricity supply are also left out. And a big question in academic circles is if learners themselves know the best way forward in learning complex knowledge.

While debates continue, multiple online learning marketplaces have emerged and are growing by the day.

In this article, I’ll describe how these online learning marketplaces can build the future of education and learning by delighting students with high-quality online education options, including new combinations of blended learning and industry partnerships.

Last week, I attended the FutureLearn partners Forum in London where it was announced that its 175+ partners have created 2000+ online courses for over 10 million learners on the FutureLearn platform. And FutureLearn is not alone. Coursera, the world’s leading online learning platform, has 3,200+ courses to over 40 million learners.

I’ve been working on online course development since 2016 as a FutureLearn partner with the Jindal Centre for Social Innovation + Entrepreneurship at O.P. Jindal Global University. We have created four online courses with over 55,000 learners from 159 countries to-date.

As the event wrapped up, I decided to share some of my raw thoughts in a Twitter thread (seen below). Here, I’ll talk through some of those ideas in a bit more depth. I’d love to hear any thoughts or comments you might have after reading this.

The Internet is fundamentally changing our relationship between knowledge, content, place and space. MOOCs are demonstrating how anyone with an internet connection can learn from the world’s best universities. And it’s clear that the market for people who want to learn is not just students.

More people are in the market to learn for another reason — change and uncertainty in the global economy. Jobs are changing, skills are changing. Online marketplaces are growing in response to meet this demand, while the supply of traditional education programs is falling short in affordability and relevance.

Just as Netflix gained deep insights into their customers and designed a product armed with a powerful recommendation engine, the same can happen with online learning platforms. MOOCs might be dead, but the data continuously generated from them will power the future of education.

The best universities and educators have a great opportunity in a future with online learning content wars. But they will also have to come to terms with the new reality that trusted sources of knowledge will not be limited to the best Universities and educators.

The best learning content will get shared more, possibly go viral and get recommended more frequently in the marketplace.

Designing learning pathways is a key challenge ahead for online learning marketplaces. Universities are built to do this. But online learning marketplaces will want to be responsive to changing short term learner needs and desires. This tension is structural and will remain between Universities and marketplaces. Those that can navigate it best will likely win the learning content wars.

The very best will bring together the best universities, industry partnerships and create engaging (even immersive) learning content that meets student demand and provides a useful credential.

As I see it, the future of education will see:

  • The best universities continue to thrive with high quality blended learning

  • New online marketplaces grow all over the world

  • New celebrity educators and knowledge creators

  • Billions of people engaging with new high-quality learning content every day


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