Online learning is not new

It is a pity that this article reads as if online learning is a new concept. It is not and has been around since the Internet was conceived. What the article does not make clear is that the worldwide rush to provide open online courses that anyone can take free of charge (and pay for accreditation only) is threatening the conservative fabric of tertiary institutions - enrol, pay, learn and obtain a qualification.

In the open online model of learning - participants choose what they want to learn and can gather a mish mash of courses into either a collection of badges to demonstrate their achievements (learning) or a home grown qualification. What the article also fails to mention is that these free open online courses can also be used to supplement 'traditional' blended (face-to-face and online) courses offered by tertiary institutions.

People want quality and they want to learn what is fashionable and needed when they need it - now they can choose from a huge variety of offerings from big names in North America - Harvard, Stanford, MIT. From my perspective, unless NZ institutions offer unique courses run by well-known and respected leaders in their field, we have no hope of competing with these courses.

I believe that University of Otago and Otago Polytechnic are going to need to rely on having teachers with a fabulous research-based reputation in their discipline - if they are going to attract participants. This worked well in the past (2007) when the first online open courses in NZ for informal participants (not enrolled) were offered from Otago Polytechnic. The momentum was lost but hopefully it is not too late to rejoin the game.

In my opinion, what will put the tertiary institutions out of business is the government's model whereby students accumulate huge debt to study qualifications with no guarantee of a job at the end. What these open online courses do is encourage life long learning and an educated society - developing people who can question and challenge the educational system ensuring that learning is fair and available to everyone.