November 29, 2012
What are MOOCs?
The acronym “MOOC” stands for “massive open online course.” It’s “massive” because the online courses often enroll hundreds or even thousands of students per course. They are also massively open in terms of enrollment, allowing anyone interested in learning to sign up for free, which makes them openly available.
MOOCs are already a huge hit in rural communities and developing countries where access to traditional schools or education as a whole is limited or nonexistent. MOOCs are letting people educate themselves based on what they want to learn. It provides people all around the world with access to high-quality, community-based online classes without having to travel to a college campus, sit in a classroom, and, most importantly, pay tuition fees. Currently, MOOCs are being created with massive funding from participating universities and private for-profit businesses with the intent to keep the courses free to the learners.
Who likes MOOCs?
MOOCs are attracting stay-at-home parents who want to take real classes according to their own schedule. They help high school students take some college-level courses to stay challenged and business people take MOOCs to stay abreast of developments in their field which ultimately looks good on their resumes.
What do you get from MOOCs?
Some MOOCs offer certificates for course completion and there’s talk that in the near future, MOOC learners may be able to earn an entire online degree for free by completing an approved series of courses. Even employers are beginning to look at MOOCs in their hiring decisions.
Where are MOOCs?
Here’s a list of MOOCs you can check out: http://distancelearn.about.com/od/isitforyou/tp/Top-Massively-Open-Online-Courses-Moocs.htm.
An example of a successful MOOC is Coursera, a company founded by computer science professors Andrew Ngand Daphne Koller from Stanford University. Coursera partners with various universities and makes a few of their courses available online free for a large audience. As of November 2012 more than 1,900,241 students from 196 countries have enrolled in at least one course.
Should we fear MOOCs?
Many academics worry that MOOCS will diminish the traditional face-to-face interactions students have with professors and do away with the classroom experience. They question the adequacy of the learning offered through MOOCs and whether it will take away from the well-rounded liberal arts education provided in undergraduate programs by encouraging students to become more skills-based in their studies. They’re also concerned that this style of learning will create fewer scholars or experienced instructors. And though MOOCs are currently free, it is possible that the very groups which have been creating the courses may begin charging for them once the market for this alternative mode of study has been proven successful. I think the biggest fear with MOOCs is with more people enrolling in these on-line courses, the traditional options of higher education may become fewer and even obsolete.
What do you think?
(For an interesting debate about MOOCs, check out this interview on KCRW’s “To the Point.”)
The Frustrated Evaluator