Global Conference Hibbs Prepared Remarks

Re Hibbs/Vance Stevens Presentation at the Global Education Conference, MOOC’s – The New Frontier of OnLine Learning

Hibbs Prepared Remarks, 15 November 2012

Good morning, good afternoon and good evening wherever you may be.

I’m John Hibbs, speaking to you from Eugene, Oregon, the home of the University of Oregon – and, I might add. a plug for our Ducks who are now the Number One collegiate football team in the country.

For Vance Stevens and me, it’s an honor to present at what is almost surely the largest, most innovative education conference in the world. Thank you for attending. With SPECIAL THANKS to Steve Hargadon and Lucy Gray and the entire GEC Crew.

I know first-hand and up-close how damnably hard it is to hold global events with presenters and audience from all 24 time zones. (Shamelessly, I’d like to imagine that the one we put on for many years, starting way back in 1996, — Global Learn Day – was a small foretaste of what was to come with Global Education Conference.  Something like what the  Mercury Missions were to the Apollo  landings on the Moon.) The good news with leaders like Vance, Steve Hargadon and Lucy, it always gets better. The bad news is that being pathfinders for something as truly exciting as is the whole promise of the Web is just plain awfully hard work. Congratulations GEC!

{Quick NOTE:*Mercury” was a one man capsule, the Model T of the undertaking. Gemini was the two-man vehicle; the last segment, Apollo, was what delivered on John Kennedy’s promise to put a man on the moon in the decade. Hopefully, later in the hour we might have a chance to talk about a MOOC on the Moon.  Hang with us please.}

SECOND  This presentation wouldn’t be as professionally polished and delivered as it is without the incredible efforts by Vance Stevens. He deserves every ounce of credit for that. For this “show”, I’m very, very proud to be his junior partner. How he gets done all he does is simply unimaginable!

Vance is speaking to us from Abu Dhabi where he is one of the leading instructors at the Higher Colleges of Technology….one of the very best in the Arab World. It’s truly impossible for me to say too many good things about Vance.

In all my comments in this Conference, the single most important advice I can offer is that when Vance Stevens speaks, or writes, it’s worth paying close, close attention.  (In this regard, I would particularly like to  to review his commentary about MOOCs. Click here and please don’t miss it.

(Note: Vance will be providing some links to his many, many web pages here in the GEC chat room. Please keep a look-out there.)

Now, to this Presentation


in spite of my deeply held cautions and concerns about the dangers of “MOOC’s that are operating in the for-profit, corporate arena (which I will talk about in a moment) I remain absolutely convinced that MOOCs will be “THE Game Changer of the 21st Century“. {For extended commentary about that, to include Vance’s participation, please click here.}

I repeat: My fundamental belief is that MOOC’s are going to be a “Game Changer“, not just in OnLine learning but also of substantial worth to advocacy groups and groups of “special interest” outside of the boundaries of “education”. But the MOOCs most substantial impact, I say is in the realm of “education”.

Here, now, I sing in the same choir as those participating in the Global Education Conference. It’s choir book reads something like this.

Virtually everyone everywhere agrees that from Socrates onward that education is, by far, the single greatest antidote to ignorance. And that 99.9% of all great problems can be traced to ignorance. (More? please view the video of Sir Ken Robinson.)

Ben Franklin, my very personal “Patron Saint of Universal Education” had it right  “Education is always the best investment.

Yes! That it is!

And because Web deliveries of intellectual products is already so fantastic, and will get better and better for all the many reasons that took the Wright Brothers at Kitty Hawk and Armstrong to the moon and what took the telegraph to the Smart Phone, surely we all agree that online access to anything and everything will get better; that online learning outcomes, in particular, will fantastically improve; that costs and prices will drop —  right through the basement.

MOOC’s will be a big, big part of this, in so many sizes, shapes, colors and flavors that even Google will be challenged to help sort it all out. We all sing from that choir book.  Good for us!

NOW, FINALLY (gasp) A Big, Big Warning 


THERE ARE SOME VERY LARGE RISKS coming from  Coursera Incorporated, the obvious leader of the for-profit MOOC Parade.

Please bear with me. It’s not an easy story for me to tell at all; much less in brief!

A couple days ago I posted extended thoughts on Coursera Incorporated and it’s MOOC arrangements with 33 fine universities.

I opened that post by a reference to Willy Sutton’s response when asked why he robbed banks? His response, “because that’s where the money is.”

Right now all the “big money” is in seizing opportunities in smooth online delivery of intellectual products — be they Facebook, Google, Twitter or tools, games, music, transportation – yes, delivered from The Cloud..

These days the golden road to make bundles is to be very, very good at delivering intellectual products. Ones that are in high, high demand.

The best “products” are those that already have a strong brand image, ready-made for the “taking“. Find a way to get hold of the original content and deliv”it” imaginatively to the end user (at first for “free”); do “it” for pennies to each user; then build a big following; then devise a novel revenue apparatus coupled to a very compelling narrative; wrapped it up with powerful brand images, signage, emblems– stuff that been around for a long, long time. The more respectable are the products the better; especially those that are not affordable to all but the relative few.  (Think Rolex watches for five bucks each. Straight from the Swiss factory, documented by Rolex, delivered by a legitimate Rolex employee.)

That’s where the money is. And that’s why I referenced Willie Sutton.

I’m pretty sure this crowd in particular will agree that the largest, most obvious vaults holding, by far, the richest treasure chest of fine intellectual content of all resides inside sanctuaries we call “The University”. They are all over the world with gatekeepers who by custom, culture and practice are inclined to share them as widely as is wisely possible. (NOTE: THE KEY WORD WISELY!)

Many of the best of those universities are here in America… to include Stanford, Yale, Princeton and Columbia.

So if I were Willy Sutton and had my eye on a prize that could be acquired as ‘doing good for the world’ – for ‘delivery to the world’ — to be wrapped in clever “packages” stamped “Priceless”. Acquired through slick presentations by those of marvelous pedigree, especially in advanced wizardry, underpinned by millions provided by sharp venture capital sources – the ones seeking a billion dollar jackpot.


After I learned that elite universities all over America had embraced a for profit, VC funded MOOC – Coursera Incorporated – and granted that Corporation the most loosey-goosey license agreements imaginable – I decided to watch them very, very closely. Then after taking their classes and digging deeper, ever since my ‘hair has been on fire”.

These are just a few of the “matches” that lit my hair on fire:

1) Coursera is now enrolling millions and signing up dozens of universities to deliver, right now,  hundreds of classes. On its face, this is  absolutely impossible to do with excellence. Example:  Right now, if they could assign all 25 Coursera employees with the single task to give care, caution and attention to each class, this would mean each employee would be “responsible” for about 8,000 students, the professor and his staff, and the technology glitches that EVERY on-line class provider encounters.  (And guess what? Coursera has only ONE employee that has ANY “hands on experience in on-line class deliveries. “retention rates” – are this:

2) Drop out rates  — we call them “retention rates” – are this:  Eight drop-outs to every one student that completes the course. Here’s the biggest damage as a result of that amount of drop-outs:

  • a) The loss of a motivated human being hungry to self0=-improve.
  • b) The bad news they could spread by the experience

3) The idea of “certificates“. If one looks at this through the eyes of Willie Sutton, — as did/does every Diploma Mill/Correspondence Course Provider – the most powerful magnet would be the linkage between the certificate and the originating provider.  Coursera is proud to tell you that something like 300,000 students have completed their courses. How many are “packaging” that “certificate” for all sorts of purposes. Never mind that their classroom experience is a long country mile from that obtained on the campus. They are “selling” it as if it were. More on Coursera certificates here

4) The damage to the brand image of the University; the damage to their students and the alumni.  I feel so strongly about this I actually think the students have a legal case to bring an action against the university. Wasn’t there a bargain made between the student and the university that every university student has to comply with the requirements of the University – (to include: Admission to enroll; rigorous tests and grading evaluations; certificates of completion – called a diploma.

5) The revenue sharing agreements are as mystical as a witch’s broom. What revenue? Classes are free and every other source of revenue is as murky as the bottom of the sea. And where are the advances? Not one dime for securing rights to brands are even higher value that Rolex, Rolls Royce or Faberge,

Time does not allow more details. Let’s just hope we get a tidbit on my idea for a MOOC on the Moon. But if not, you can find me at

Except on Saturdays when I will be cheering for the Ducks.

About oregonhibbs

I'm passionate about improving access to education, worldwide, sailing, Duck football (I live in the shadow of the University of Oregon in Eugene) and connecting with people with ideas and work that "can change the world". With this in mind, I am the "Skipper" for Global Learn Day, which you can find out more about at OREGONHIBBS.COM ; Write to

Posted on November 14, 2012, in Global Learn Day, Khan,Coursera,Etc, MOOC's Global Ed Conference, News. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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