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It has become apparent that  Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are causing change in higher ed, but are they enough to change the way college students earn degrees? Will another change need to take root before the world of academia permanently alters its course toward the future?

Phil Hill, an educational technology consultant based in California, has proposed an interesting way to view the MOOC phenomenon from last year. Hill proposes viewing the progression of the educational trend from the perspective of the Satir Change Model. This model depicts how a new innovation, which is usually technology-based, brings change to a given system and how that system reacts to the change.

Satir Change Model

In this model of improvement over time, the first phase consists of an initial status quo to which a foreign element is introduced. The introduction of the foreign element then leads to resistance, and eventually to a period of chaos where the performance of the system fluctuates to a large degree and actually is often worse than during the status quo phase as the system wrestles with how to integrate the innovation into the system. At the outset of 2013, the resistance/chaos phase seems to equate the current state of affairs of MOOCs, as universities are beginning to implement the technology, albeit with trepidation and sometimes because of the fear of being left out of something potentially revolutionary.

According to the Satir Change Model, the path to a positive effect on the overall system is another transformative idea. In the case of the MOOC phenomenon, this has interesting implications for one’s understanding of what is happening in the movement. While the system is working to create structure after the introduction of the foreign element, it is in a state of transition. No real improvement is being made to the system until the introduction of a transformative idea. A key statement in Hill’s article is that the transforming idea is typically related to the foreign element, but it is not equivalent. Thus, MOOCs as they stand currently may not be the answer to the improvement of higher education until a transforming idea is presented. However, according to Hill, it is clear that the late status quo has been dismantled and higher education will not go back. While we don’t know how quickly changes will come, change driven by online education is upon us.

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