Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are leading the greatest upheaval in university education since the advent of the printing press according to a new report published by the United States Studies Centre at the University of Sydney.

Disruptive Education: Technology-Enabled Universities is co-authored by chief operating officer and research associate at the US Studies Centre Dr Sean Gallagher, together with the Dean of the Australian School of Business at the University of New South Wales, Professor Geoffrey Garrett. It has been released this week to coincide with a major Sydney conference examining the rise of MOOCs and the ramifications for traditional higher education.

Technology messiahs foretell a world in which anyone anywhere anytime can access high quality higher education at no or low cost. Prophets of doom envisage a MOOC tsunami sweeping away the ivory tower. Skeptical hard heads counter by paraphrasing Mark Twain: talk of the demise of place-based universities is grossly exaggerated.

To determine the reality, Dr Gallagher and Professor Garrett document the technology-driven education experimentation now occurring, from leading international players such as Coursera and EdX, to domestic startup innovators. In doing so, they identify possible future directions and highlight the implications for universities in Australia and around the world, including:

  • MOOCs are here to stay
  • Interactive online degrees are the modern equivalent of distance education
  • Place-based university degrees have a bright outlook provided technology is fully integrated at all stages, beginning with the classroom

The report was produced with the support of NSW Trade and Investment.

Dr Sean Gallagher and Professor Geoffrey Garrett are available for interview.