With a bit of a delay some thoughts on Google's move towards education (lining up with EdX for the MOOC.org platform). It does not come as too much of a surprise, as Google has been exploring education for a longer period of time. Starting with Google's business approach that people are able to dedicate some time of their Google professional work to innovative projects they set up themselves. This highlights to me the trust in experimentation, self-directed training and learning to reach new innovations.
Google was also one of the earlier MOOC providers, with its wonderful and experimental (yet very useful) Power Searching with Google course:
What I really appreciate with Google's vision is the effort to make things open. One of the examples related to Google and education is Google's course builder:
This builds upon what they learned from the early Power Search courses and such, and opens up opportunities for those looking to set up an online course (provided they have some knowledge in IT).
Another angle which I find of interest is the Google teacher approach: or how to use Google tools for teachers. The Google teacher academy ignited new interest in using open tools for educational purposes. The teachers kept their expert role, and Google offered them additional tools that saved money and time, and opened up more collaborative options for all. This had a global impact, as teachers from around the world sought Google certification through the academy. http://www.google.co.uk/edu/programs/google-teacher-academy/
Another angle are Google's innovative tools that have opened education: Google Goggle's for example, opening up opportunities for augmented learning:
So to me partnering up with universities (especially EdX type universities) seems to be a logical next step. For what Google did miss was Subject Matter Experts, or teachers in general. Merging EdX with Google will no doubt result in optimal learning experiences (e.g. mobile optimized courses, seamless learning experience) and it has an enormous potential for Big Data related to learner analytics, as Google has one of the vast analytics opportunities out there.
And although Apple and Microsoft have launched some educational initiatives, it does not even begin to compare with the prior expertise Google has built up.
My hope is of course that UNESCO's aim to reach 'education for all' will in fact become a possibility. But in order for this to happen Open Educational Resources must be build and expertise must be shared. Learners must be seen as intelligent people who themselves have expertise and knowledge to share, and who know which knowledge would help them out in daily life (whether professional or personal). This means that the current (x)MOOC that use 'the expert' instead off 'us, the experts', or 'the content' instead of 'all viewpoints' might have to change their game if Google and EdX really move towards a meaningful third road in between xMOOC and cMOOC. And I think Google's vision can pull this off, as it is a philosophy which has proven them lucrative.
Higher Education is of course under pressure with all these new developments, but in a way it is not. The only thing higher ed has to do is come up with specialties, coaching and mentorship are still easier in face-to-face environments. But I like the parallel with publishers, their are big publishing houses out there, but there is always a space for smaller, specialized options as well.
MOOC do have an effect on classroom teaching in universities: as professors are in some cases pushed to rethink their pedagogy, their course schedule.
But in the end, teaching is a real craft. And all of us remember the great professors and rapidly forget the others. I feel that however wonderful a MOOC platform is build, or whatever emphasis is placed on pedagogy, at the end of the day the quality of what is taught lies with the professor (she or he). An enlightened teacher can lift learners to a higher level with pencil and paper, or fabulous mobile multimedia alike. Great teachers know how to connect with their learners prior knowledge, provide them with collaborative zest, and move their learners to the next level of insights. But I bet that professors that will become globally known for their expert teaching efforts, will get better pay-checks... Or would it mean that the rest will get even less?