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?
The 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 https://www.mooc-list.com/. 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.
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
Morgan, (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.