Massive open online courses, or MOOCs, are hailed as a new innovation so disruptive for academia today that they will do to higher education what the Internet has done to newspapers or what Napster did to music. There’s only one problem with this bold hypothesis: It’s simply not true.
Don’t get me wrong, online learning will fundamentally transform higher education, bridging distances and creating access in ways that have not been possible before. But, in this arena, MOOCs are not a transformative innovation that will forever remake academia. That honor belongs to a more disruptive and far-reaching innovation – “big data.” A catchall phrase that refers to the vast numbers of data sets that are collected daily, big data promises to revolutionize online learning and, in doing so, higher education.