OCLC’s new study about MOOCs, At a Tipping Point: Education, Learning & Libraries
“We are quickly approaching the tipping point into a new future for American education.
This transformation follows tipping points that have already occurred in how most of us consume and
evaluate information, how we shop and buy, how we date and break up, and how we manage our careers
and our retirement portfolios. Web and mobile services have forever changed how we manage our days,
our jobs, and very soon, how we learn and manage our education.
We now spend nearly as much time exploring online, watching videos on our mobile phones, texting and
tweeting each day as we do sleeping. So every day, keystroke by keystroke, click by click, we become more
skilled, more confident and more empowered.
It should not come as a surprise then that the skills and talents that we have already unleashed on so
many aspects of our lives would come to guide how we learn and educate ourselves. It is simply ‘what’s
next’ in our digital evolution.
Yet, as is often the case in times of change, many of the primary purveyors of the traditional services that
are being reshaped, or more likely unseated, don’t see the shift coming. Perhaps we are too close for
proper viewing or too comforted by loyal customers and high customer service ratings; we don’t feel the
tip or sense shifts in the landscape. We misread the cues.
This impending education tipping point is not the result of any single event or set of new services. It is
not the result of the recent appearance of one online education model, MOOCs. It is not the result of
an outcry of parents, looking for alternatives to what many are calling “unfundable college educations.”
Nor is it because of the rise of easy-to-use self-help videos and tutorials. Education will tip into a new
future because of the cumulative weight of all of these factors—new consumer practice, evolving
technological capabilities and increasing economic incentives.
As social scientist Malcolm Gladwell tells us, “A tipping point is that magic moment when an idea, trend
or social behavior crosses a threshold, tips and spreads like wildfire.”
The sparks are visible.”