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Massive Open Online Courses

February 11, 2014

Will university life soon become a concept associated with the past? For now, this is probably not the case, but physical educational institutions could experience trouble in the future due to the emergence of MOOCs. Massive Open Online Courses, or MOOCs, are short, online courses offered with the intention of drawing in large-scale interactive participation. They provide shared user forums that consist of videos, readings and problem sets to help build a community amongst students and professors.

Could this infringe on traditional universities, though? Many say “no”. The United States Studies Centre at the University of Sydney believes that MOOCs will be non-threatening to physical universities, and, in fact, be beneficial in that they could offer opportunities to better utilize technology, thus gaining a greater global profile.MOOC  Other proponents say MOOCs are the “iTunes of higher education” in that degrees from universities are like attending live shows- they are expensive and only a limited number of people can participate- but MOOCs can reach out to an infinite number of participants in a cost efficient manner. Just as iTunes does not make live shows less desirable, MOOCs are not designed to reinvent education. Rather, just as iTunes changed the manner in which music is consumed, MOOCs will revolutionize the education scene. An example of the successful utilization of MOOCs is evident in McAfee, the wholly owned subsidiary of Intel

Not everyone is optimistic about the future of the online classes, however. Many skeptics believe that MOOCs will have no influence on existing physical universities because they are merely a trend.  Instructure CEO Josh Coates and Dennis Yang, President of MOOC provider Udemy, believe that MOOCs are merely going through a “hype cycle”, as shown below.hype cycle

These critics believe this to be true due to the high non-completion rates of MOOC participants and the preference amongst employers for skills and education gained at tangible institutions. Another criticism is the idea that bigger is not always better. While MOOCs emphasize the capability of capturing thousands of students virtually, they do not mention the quality of this form of education. Rather than reveling in the augmentation of education as though it is the main goal, relationships between instructors and students lead to greater understanding of the material because the students’ progress can be tracked on more of an individual basis. There is also the idea that large lecture classrooms are widely considered to be ineffective. This is evident in an experiment done by a physics professor at Harvard, which has led some to say that MOOCs should be limited to first year courses or courses that are considered to be more basic.

Could Massive Open Online Courses be the future of education, or is it merely a phase in the education system?

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