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The Future of MOOCs as Revealed Through SXSWedu Submissions

We look at what MOOC sessions have been submitted at SXSWedu 2016 and what they tell us about the future of MOOCs.

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South by Southwest (SXSW) is a set of film, interactive, and music festivals and conferences that take place in March each year in Austin, Texas, United States. Since 2011, the SXSW team has also been hosting  SXSWedu®–a four day conference and festival held immediately prior to SXSW. Class Central attended the SXSWedu the last two years (you can read our coverage for 2014 and 2015 here), though unfortunately we weren’t present in 2013 when The New York Times writer Laura Pappano moderated a conversation between Coursera co-founder Andrew Ng and edX President Anant Agarwal.


At this year’s conference, 357 sessions were hosted by the conference. How do these sessions get selected? Applicants submit session ideas via the PanelPicker website, where the community has a chance to influence the selections through their votes. For March 2016, Class Central submitted our first-ever panel proposal on the topic of MOOCs & Teacher Professional Development with panelists from Coursera, edX, and a nonprofit institute. You can learn more about our panel here–and vote for it until September 4.

According to Tony Wan, managing editor of EdSurge, “Submitting a panel involves the challenge of looking into the crystal ball and trying to predict the hot-button issues that will still be relevant 8 months after the panel idea is proposed”. Thus, panel proposals by major MOOC providers can give us an insight into what they think will be the hot issues in 2016. Let’s take a look at the proposals from the top three MOOC providers and see what we can glean from them.

Submitting a panel involves the challenge of looking into the crystal ball and trying to predict the hot-button issues that will still be relevant 8 months after the panel idea is proposed 

-Tony Wan, managing editor of EdSurge

SXSWedu 2016 Session Proposals

How Online Ed Will Create a More Skilled Workforce – Daphne Koller, Coursera

In this session proposal, Daphne Koller, co-founder of Coursera will be hosting a conversation on the topic of how universities are using online platforms to help close skills gaps around the world. Coursera recently announced its Global Skills Initiative in which universities and top companies will collaborate to create Specializations in high-demand content areas. Specializations are the Coursera credentials based on passing a sequence of courses grouped around a specific topic area. In the next few months, we expect to hear more announcements from Coursera about these new Credentials.

You can get more details and vote for the Coursera session here.

From College to Jobs: MOOCs and Credentialing – Anant Agarwal, edX

EdX offers a number of ways for people to display what they learned from MOOCs – Verified Certificate, Professional Certificate, Xseries programs, and in some cases, credit (i.e. their partnership with ASU). This session will focus on the future of education and how learners are using online courses to earn both traditional college credits and new forms of credentials.

You can get more details and vote for the edX panel here.

Closing Tech Talent Gap with Adult Growth Mindsets – Kathleen Mullaney, Udacity

According to panel description, “This session will share the stories of three professionals on three continents who overcame stereotypes and completely transformed their careers to become successful developers“. It goes on to say that students wrongly assume that the chance for a technical career expires after college. Thus, it is probably a good bet that these professionals benefited from Udacity Nanodegree credentials to achieve their career goals. In the past year, Udacity has created new Nanodegrees including those for Android and iOS development, and Udacity also recently announced a 50% tuition reimbursement program for students who complete a Nanodegree within 12 months.

You can get more details and vote for the Udacity session here.

The Common Theme: Credentials

In 2015, we have seen credentials around MOOCs pick up a lot of steam – Specializations, Nanodegrees, and Xseries. edX with their Global Freshman Academy and Coursera with iMBA have offered a way for learners to get credit for these MOOCS. The discussions in all the panels mentioned above will be based on these credentials and their impact. Our makeshift crystal ball tells that in the next few months, the focus of MOOC providers will be in further planning, developing, and raising awareness around these credentials.

Class Central will be watching and keep you updated on events and news. And also, don’t forget to vote for our 2016 SXSWedu panel on MOOCs and PD!

Dhawal Shah Profile Image

Dhawal Shah

Dhawal is the CEO of Class Central, the most popular search engine and review site for online courses and MOOCs. He has completed over a dozen MOOCs and has written over 200 articles about the MOOC space, including contributions to TechCrunch, EdSurge, Quartz, and VentureBeat.

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