Game Changers

Posted by John Patrick on

Football

The New York Times reported that massive open online courses (MOOCs) are not dead (see After Setbacks, Online Courses Are Rethought). Although not the most positive article, it made the important point that MOOCs are evolving. I stick by my view that MOOCs are Web-1994. In that year, I gave a speech in Paris at an International Data Corporation (IDC) conference outlining my bullish view for the web and how we would use it in the future. The speaker that preceded me was Bill Gates. He said the Internet was too slow to do anything serious and that e-commerce was out of the question because the Internet was not secure. He said that the Internet, in general, was too unreliable to be used for business. (I give Bill Gates a lot of credit for later realizing that Microsoft was missing out on the Internet opportunity, and he led the company to abruptly change, and the company caught up quickly).

Naysayers abound when it comes to technology. I recall when the NYT, about 15 years ago, said that blogging was a fad and that it had peaked out. That was the point at which I adopted a strategic technology adoption indicator: If the New York Times expresses skepticism, that would indicate that the technology in question was a sure thing. The Times later said that YouTube was a foolish investment that would never pay off. WiFi faced the same kind of criticism in the early days as did Java, XML, RealAudio (streaming), IP Telephony, and more recently cloud computing, Facebook, and Twitter. In the case of MOOCs, the majority of the skeptical stories I have seen have been written by or referred to professors who are likely concerned about their tenured future. Similar parallels occur in stories about the major changes happening in healthcare. It seems the really important game changers all face criticism from doubters and from those that do not want the game to change.

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