MOOCs prove that universities can and should embrace online learning

Online learning is here to stay and will become a staple in how many university courses will be delivered in the near future. There has been a paradigm shift that results from globalization and advancement in technology. This generation embraces technology and is open to emerging technologies. They are the early adopters who want to “have their cake and eat it.” They want to balance family, career and higher education. Online education gives them that option, it is flexible, yet demanding and it is distant, yet engaging.

What is MOOC?

mooc1The MOOC acronym means Massive Open Online Course. MOOCs are online courses that are offered free of cost by higher education learning institutions. Papppano (2012), argued that “traditional online courses charge tuition, carry credit and limit enrollment to a few dozen to ensure interaction with instructors. The MOOC, on the other hand, is usually free, credit – less and, well, massive.” Clearly, MOOC was designed to be the vehicle that drives the massification of higher education as MOOC would allow tens of thousands or millions of students to be enrolled in higher education courses. Christensen et al (2013), informed that “three years ago, MOOCs were an idea. Today they are an industry. Millions of students from around the globe have enrolled; thousands of courses have been offered; hundreds of universities have lined up to participate.”

The open concept means that registration is open, anyone can register and access a course. Open also means that the content is open and freely available as participants may only pay for the certification and not the process to obtain the certification.

Online means real time interaction via the internet. Some instructions are packaged and delivered online via short 8-12 minutes lecture videos. Some instructions are also provided through PowerPoint presentations, eBooks, blogs, discussion boards and online classroom platforms.

Individuals are free to choose from a wide range of courses and they can be registered for multiple courses simultaneously.  Individuals determine the start and end date as these courses are self-paced.  Some courses allow students to create a profile similar to a Facebook page where they are able to create a network of people enrolled in the course with similar interests.

Institutions that offer MOOCs

Institutions such Coursea, Udacity, edX and Fedora offer a number of MOOCs. A list of MOOCs and institutions that offer them can be found at MOOCs offer endless possibilities. Morgan, (2016), argues that students are not confined to studying within their borders and that if one comes from a poor country with limited university access, or if one wants to learn a specialist subject but don’t have the means to travel overseas to study, MOOCs give them that option.

Adoption of MOOCs by universities

There is an on-going debate as to the currency of certification received via MOOCs and more research needs to be done to determine how industries perceive MOOCs participants. Often there is a misconception that MOOCs are watered down versions of traditional courses and MOOC does not lends itself to academic rigors that the courses done face-to-face undergoes. Consequently, face-to-face graduates are more marketable and are able to add more value to organizations.

There is also the misconception that MOOCs are easy to obtain because of the method of assessments that is used, the fact that they are self-paced and that they exclude interaction with faculty. Morgan, (2016), states that “higher education institutions have a responsibility to ensure that they are wisely adopting technology to support and advance their core endeavours.”


One of the biggest issue with MOOCs is that they are not accredited. Papppano (2012), argued about the challenges of MOOC, she questioned whether or not learning can be scaled up this much, grading is imperfect for nontechnical subjects and that cheating is a reality. It is interesting to note that millions of people enroll in these unaccredited courses, nevertheless.

MOOC Students

Christensen et al (2013), authors of “The MOOC Phenomenon, who takes Massive Open Online Courses and why?” discovered that “the student population tends to be young, well educated, and employed, with a majority from developed countries.” They also discovered that “there are significantly more males than females taking MOOCs, especially in developing countries and students’ main reasons for taking a MOOC are advancing in their current job and satisfying curiosity.” This findings, suggests that MOOC is not reaching the target population for which it was intended. The idea behind MOOC is that many disenfranchised persons would gain access to higher education and get the chance to try or “taste” before they “buy” or delve head-on into higher education. MOOCs would be the tester where students get the opportunity to test and experience higher education courses before they make the commitment to enroll in universities.

The Way Forward

Moocs2Morgan, (2016), argues that MOOCs enables “education or research development to be easily shared without the need for time and place dependencies.” This therefore means that universities should embrace technology and use online modality to deliver specialist courses and research based courses that enables students to become independent critical thinkers who are able to add value to humanity. Breslow et al (2013), argue that the existence of MOOCs are already calling into question the nature of the university, its structure, its role in society, its accessibility to subpopulations, and its role as a mechanism for providing credentials for its students.” The question is, should universities ignore the MOOCs trend or should they offer MOOCs as part of their course offerings? What are your thoughts?




Breslow, L., Pritchard, D. E., DeBoer, J., Stump, G. S., Ho, A. D., & Seaton, D. T. (2013). Studying learning in the worldwide classroom: Research into edX’s first MOOC. Research & Practice in Assessment, 8.

Christensen, G., Steinmetz, A., Alcorn, B., Bennett, A., Woods, D., & Emanuel, E. J. (2013). The MOOC phenomenon: who takes massive open online courses and why?. Available at SSRN 2350964.

Pappano, L. (2012). The Year of the MOOC. The New York Times, 2(12), 2012.

MOOCs prove that universities can and should embrace online learning

If you are not updating your lectures you could be letting your students down


According to the article by Chris Moore If you are not updating your lectures you could be letting your students down. He reports that the focus of the institutions for students upon entry into the university is ways of teaching, time management, reflection on performance and preparedness for employment.  Students therefore must adapt to a different learning environment compared to the one exposed to at college as well as adapting to readiness for the competitive job market.

The universities places much emphasis on students changing to meet the expectations of the job market, however many lecturers fail to expand their teaching methods to adapt to the different to types of learners. He also said that if they really expect these students to change to meet the demands of the changing world, then they as teachers must be willing to change how and what they do to achieve this change in students.

I do agree with these points, because if teaching is done the same old way each year, without integrating new trends and ideas, then teachers will not able to maximize the talents of the students. This will result in producing subpar students who will not meet the needs of the job market.

The writer went on to speak of lectures that too often go unchanged, unreview assessments and same processes and guidelines each year. He believes that teachers should make a determined effort to exercise better time management and to make necessary changes to facilitate improvement of the teaching and learning process.  Teachers should update their lectures and how they are delivered.

Teachers need to realize that students are diverse and unique and therefore a variety of learning experiences are needed to facilitate their learning. It is important to try different styles to meet different objectives and challenge themselves to find ways to reach each student, Gresha (2004). They should be flexible enough to change a particular style of teaching even though it is their preferred choice to one that best work for the student.

The use of a valid assessment method should be used and prompt feedback should be given to ensure ongoing learning of the student.

 My Experience

I remember my first semester at university for the master’s programme like it was yesterday. I was enthused and eager to learn, however as the classes progressed I was hit by some disappointments. My expectations of university were not what I envisioned it to be; much was expected of us in terms of meeting deadlines, attendance to classes and time management among others. However, the teaching and learning experience was different; it ranged from three hour lectures without breaks from some lecturers of which some students slept, to lectures that were engaging and stimulating. I received no feedback on course grades prior to sitting exams. It appears that the main focus at the university is less on quality teaching but more on academic research. This is supported by the writer Dewar 2002 who in an article posits that traditionally, research is perceived by academics as the more prestigious activity due to its potential to contribute knowledge base, build scholarly reputations and acquire resource funding.

He further argued that most universities maintain promotion criteria so this given preference over teaching. Some teachers are set in the old ways of teaching and should implement new strategies. I strongly believe that it will improve the students experience and also allow the teacher to enjoy teaching.   At universities with class enrollment in the hundreds there is little chance to do anything else but a lecture style.

All about the lecture

According to an article titled Radical Intervention in Teaching and learning, a lecture is not merely the product of an ancient style of learning, its continued importance is also because it became a convenient method in an era of massification of learning. It further states that the lecture performed a utility function in a period of increased standardization, relieving time and resource pressures on universities by teaching a large number of students in one single time and space.  Therefore, it is not that the lecture itself is a barrier to change, but rather the fact that it has become a central part of a standardized approach to mass teaching that remains prevalent in higher education and lacks the inspiration and inclusivity we need in a modern, democratic university

I do understand the logics of lecture style when teaching large groups, however it is boring and often time students are lost throughout the presentation. Grasha (2004) suggested that a more diverse approach is needed to engage students as lectures without engagement of the audience turn students into passive observers.

The way forward

We must be reminded of the primary focus of universities and that is to foster research and development. Teaching is secondary, however teachers’ need to examine the way they go about their jobs and how they teach. They should endeavor to update their lectures to meet the needs of the students in this 21st century. It is important that quality teaching takes place as there are more diverse students accessing higher education today. This is as a result of the high expectations of the corporate entities for qualified and skilled workers.




Bates, Tony 2014, Why lectures are dead or soon will be.  Retrieved from


Grasha, F. Anthony, Teaching With Style: The Integration of Teaching and Learning Styles in    the Classroom.

Moore, Chris, 2016,  If you are not updating your lectures, you could be letting your students down

Schneider Jermemy. Chalkbored;Lectures; Problems for Students and Teachers

Scott, Donald E., Scott, Shelly-Ann, Effective University Teaching and Learning

If you are not updating your lectures you could be letting your students down


The video highlights various aspects of life at that the University of the West Indies. The aim is to show viewers – “Pelicans” that UWI is a world-class institution.

All over the world, universities are regarded as centre of learning, training and research. Universities are also regarded as institutes of higher education. Education, basically, involves transfer and acquisition of knowledge and skills in certain competencies through the process of teaching and learning. Now, University education, according to UNESCO, is a platform through which human beings are equipped with knowledge, skills, attitudes, and values in order to position them to derive maximum benefits from the society, and lead fulfilling lives, and contribute to the wellbeing of the community in which they are members. [Unknowm]

       On Saturday, October 30, 2015, while on The University of the West Indies, Mona campus, I had the opportunity to see a number of graduands and their guest walked briskly and happily towards the venue of UWI’s graduation ceremony. I reflected on my undergrad graduation exercise and thought about where I will be, around this time 2017. After the graduation ended, I again watched the graduates and their guests walked pass the gazebo as they headed to the car park. However, this time around, I was shocked and extremely perturbed by the actions of a number of the females, who are now graduates of the University of the West Indies. They were actually walking shoeless (barefoot), with their shoes in their hand, a few were also seen wearing flip flops with shoes in their hands and their graduation degree clutched closely to their ches

       I pondered, am I really seeing a graduate of the University of the West Indies walking “barefoot” with graduation gown and degree in hand? How could they do this I thought? Don’t they know better? I really wanted to say something to them, but then I thought about my safety and kept on looking in disbelief.
At what point in time does the university programmes transform its students from boys/girls & men/women into ladies and gentlemen of class and substance? On many occasions madam public, not only question the quality of university graduates’, intellectual competence, but also their social skills and attributes. While we can argue if the higher education institutions are also responsible for developing the social skills of its students, the fact is that many Jamaican university graduates have caused the wide populace to question the quality of University education and quality of their graduates.


uwiuniversity intellectual ghetto

       The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Education, Dr. Maurice Smith has chided tertiary institutions for what he said was “an apparent lack of values, professionalism and character among many of the graduates they produce”. (“Universities failing graduates – News”, 2016). There is evidence of this in the workplace, where many of the tertiary graduates can be easily deemed, unprofessional and having little or no moral standards, based on their conversations and actions.
While there are serious concerns about the behaviour of our university graduates, there are also serious concerns about their ability to apply their knowledge in the world of work. The Pharmacy Council of Jamaica (PCJ), which has responsibility for the regulation of the training of pharmaceutical students, has expressed concerns about what it says is the ‘failure of some pharmacy graduates to apply knowledge and utilise critical thinking skills’. (“Pharmacy Council raises concerns about quality of some UTECH graduates”, 2016). The truth is, employers who employ university graduate, do not want to spend additional time and money to retrain them, as they expect them to instantly add value to their organization….
The issue of “quality university graduates is also a concern in other countries. In September 2015, the Education Minister of Fiji, Mahendra Reddy, complained, that there are hundreds of civil servants who despite possessing undergraduate and postgraduate degrees, are “fraught with lack of soft skills, lack of competencies in English proficiencies, unwilling to think outside the box and poor research capabilities” (“Decline in quality of university graduates – Fiji Times Online”, 2016)
“Soft skills” refer to a cluster of personal qualities, habits, attitudes and social graces that make someone a good employee and compatible to work with. Companies value soft skills because research suggests and experience shows that they can be just as important an indicator of job performance as hard skills (Staff, 2016)
The poor quality of the university graduates worldwide will have a serious implication on societies, social, educational, economic and political systems, as the individuals who lead and work in these areas are often university graduates. The quality of university graduates can also ruin or build the reputation/brand of an institution, thus, universities must be very careful of who they recommend to graduates of their institution.
According to Dr. Smith, “We must remain focused on the acquisition of knowledge, but we must also ensure that we do not swap content for character. We are not only to be concerned about the way our students think and what they know; we must be concerned about what our students care about and how they behave – who they are when no one else is around” (“Universities failing graduates – News”, 2016

       What are your thoughts?

The video below shows the end product of UWI…



A Message to our UWI Mona Pelicans – The University of the West Indies Mona, Jamaica. (2016). YouTube. Retrieved 22 June 2016, from
Decline in quality of university graduates – Fiji Times Online. (2016). Retrieved 22 June 2016, from
Highlights from the UWI Graduation 2012 – Faculty of Social Sciences – part 2. (2016). YouTube. Retrieved from
Pharmacy Council raises concerns about quality of some UTech graduates. (2016). Retrieved from
Staff, A. (2016). Top 10 Soft Skills for Job Hunters. Retrieved from
Universities failing graduates – News. (2016). Jamaica Observer. Retrieved 22 June 2016, from



Inclusive Pedagogy- A way of transforming higher education                                               

Higher education classroom in this 21st century has been transforming to embrace the experiences of students. There are many who consider women’s studies movement a successful example of how mainstream curriculum and pedagogy can be altered to become more inclusive in the extent to which they address the experiences and needs of diverse students. (Tuitt, 2003)

Frank Tuitt describes inclusive pedagogy as an emerging body of literature (Adams, 1992; Banks, 1991; Darder, 1996; Giroux & McLaren, 1996; hooks, 1994) that advocates teaching practices that embrace the whole student in the learning process. He espouses that unlike traditional modes of instruction; proponents of inclusive pedagogical models argue that students enter the classroom as personal, political, and intellectual beings (Reyes, Smith, Yazzie, Hussein, & Tuitt, 2001).

Cited by Tuitt (2003), Baker (1998) argues that teaching is a process of social interaction.  He posits that the classroom climate is directly connected to the interpersonal relationships among professor and students.  However, in traditional college classrooms, there is little teacher-student interaction because these college classes revolve around the activity and control of the professor.

My own experiences as a student accessing higher education give this great credence. Often times you find that even a mere comment maybe found offensive to a lecturer in some universities. The premise is, “you should keep what you know, because what I say is gospel”. As a matter of fact, at the first lecture, the ground rules are laid out so you are made aware of what is acceptable. My ideas and opinions are not encouraged and so often times it affect my understanding of the concept being taught.

Classmates tend to articulate that they benefit much more when the lecturer does not put themselves forward as a panacea for all ills in the lecture room but rather makes allowances for enriching the experience by drawing on knowledge possessed by students even though sometimes albeit very limited and skewed to in the process of learning.

It is the considered view then of many students engaged in higher education, that faculty members must understand, improve, and apply methods that include the learner in their instructional design. If professors hope to create inclusive learning environments, they must reconceptualise how they situate themselves in their classrooms. Using theoretical frameworks is one way professors can address this challenge (Tuitt, 2003). Simply put lecturers who are more open to input by their students general makes them feel more accommodated in the classroom and positively impacts how much they personally get from sessions they attend.

Conversely when lecturers appear closed to meaningful participation, it promulgate that they are the ewers of content and us the students, are the devourers. This not only thwarts my own personal growth and creative input in the classroom, but invariably may prove to be a turn off, and ultimately one will not get the maximum benefit from being in the class.

Palmer (1993), cited by Tuitt, 2003, indicates that in many circumstances the lecturing is authoritarian, the listening is unengaged and the memorization is mechanical” (pp. 32–33). In contrast, inclusive pedagogical models value relationships between professors and students by challenging the notion that only the professor possesses knowledge. For example, Banks and McGee’s “equity pedagogy” (1997) intentionally incorporates students in a process of knowledge construction and production that alters the traditional power relationship between teachers and students.

Baker (1998) supports the view that social interaction between faculty and students provides the foundation for a positive faculty-student relationship. She notes that students expect to be challenged, and admire professors who do this in a concerned manner. Baker argues that faculty who are knowledgeable, caring, enthusiastic, and available to students in and outside of the classroom have more positive social interactions with their students: “In order for students to feel comfortable in seeking help, the faculty must foster this relationship by creating an open welcoming environment” (p. 68) In essence, interpersonal relationships are most important to students who need to feel connected to the group, who are aware of being upset when their own voices are not heard, and who do not believe that the instructor is the sole source of knowledge (Zimmerman, 1991).

One way inclusive pedagogical models attempt to deflate the notion that the professor is the only source of knowledge is by sharing power in the classroom (Tuitt, 2003). Dhlamini (2002) posits that in critical pedagogy the concept of power-sharing makes students responsible for their own learning. She writes, “When power is shared, voices are given equal opportunity of expression; different critical ways of knowing and learning are validated” (p. 58). Obidah (2000) contends that critical pedagogy, which begins with human agency, sees professors as transformative intellectuals who reject traditional notions of power and authority in the classroom and “allow intellectual and critical spaces to exist wherein students may make meaning and find power for themselves” (p. 7).

Tuitt, 2003 posit that while inclusive pedagogy has the potential to transform traditional classrooms, the students in them, and the worlds in which they live, and its successful application depends  ultimately on faculty and students’ acceptance and implementation of teaching strategies. This consequently, has implications for teachers and learners working to change their classroom culture.

I am encouraged to personalize subject matter with examples from my own history so that there is a connection between ideas learned in the classroom and those learned through life experiences.  I find that classes taught in a way that is neither teacher centered nor student centered but learning centred, will yield the maximum benefit, where we all are responsible for constructing knowledge.

 Raquel McDonald



Tuitt, F. (2003). Afterword: Realizing more inclusive pedagogy. In A. Howell & F. Tuitt (Eds.),Race and higher education: Rethinking pedagogy in diverse college classrooms (pp. 243– 268). Cambridge, MA: Harvard Educational