To really engage people in a collaborative learning environment, an interface like Avaya's may be needed.
"The MOOC idea, and I respect Khan Academy and EdX and Coursera and Udacity, they're great for conveying knowledge, but when it comes to high-engagement, high-trust kinds of programs, they're left wanting," said Paul McDonagh-Smith, Avaya's learning practice leader.
He said there were not currently discussions between Avaya and existing massive open online courses (MOOCs), or online learning environment producers like Blackboard, about adopting its interface.
"I see a fantastic opportunity to create a whole new generation of products and services for this technology," he said. He thinks that an interface like his will be truly disruptive for higher education, in a way that current MOOCs are not.
That may be true, said Michael B. Horn, co-founder and executive director of the Clayton Christensen Institute. Horn, who cautioned that he has not seen the Avaya platform in action, called it "intriguing."
The Christensen Institute just published a report on hybrid online and classroom learning in K-12 schools. The report argued that currently the hybrid model, also called blended learning, is largely a "sustaining innovation," Christensen's notation for an innovation that improves an existing field, but does not disrupt it.
"We're still going to see students learning in schools," Horn said.