If you’ve been following education trade media, business media or – let’s face it – just about any media, you have heard about MOOCs. MOOCs are massive open online courses, or in plain language, online courses that anyone can take.
MOOCs burst into mainstream consciousness only two years ago, in the fall of 2011 – at that time, one of Stanford University’s courses, Introduction to AI, had 160,000 students. As with most new technologies, the initial interest and content was technology focused, hence tens of thousands of people signing up for a course on artificial intelligence. But MOOCs moved faster than most technology trends, crossing over into the mainstream within a year and half. You can now find courses on poetry, the humanities and pretty much everything you can think of.
Since we are talking about education, it’s time for a pop quiz: less than two years after MOOCs reached public consciousness, MOOCs are:
A) the future of education
B) the harbinger of the end of higher education as we know it
C) a passing fad
D) all of the above
E) none of the above
The past 18 months have seen MOOCs seemingly go from A to E above – and the number of clients asking for inclusion in trend articles related to MOOCs has spiked. Being included in somewhat related articles, or “chasing trend stories,” is great for consumer products and even for business products, but it’s not necessarily the best option for education stories as in many cases there’s more riding on education then there is on for example what consumer product to buy.
People looking to learn more about education opportunities are making giant leaps. They are choosing the types of careers they might have, in many cases serious financial obligations, and sometimes the hopes and dreams of multiple generations.
When looking at how we communicate about education and our education clients, we have to be more than publicists. We are counselors and we owe it to our clients, and to students, to do more than tell the story of the day.
In our annual Edelman Trust Barometer, academics have always been at or near the top of the list as the most credible spokespeople for an organization. There’s a reason that academics are trusted –for many of them, their literal job is the search for truth. It’s up to us to help them tell that truth, not chase trends.