About Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs)
Got MOOC? Massive open online courses or MOOC may be the greatest disturber to higher education that we have seen in our lifetimes. Not since online learning rose as a threat to traditional learning has there been anything like it. Now, MOOCs threaten to remake college education, by allowing students to take numerous courses for free.
The MOOC Way
In a nutshell, a MOOC is an online course that seeks to reach as many people as possible through open web access. Just as open source software gave us an alternative to Microsoft and other paid platforms, MOOC is giving students an alternative to traditional college and university access.
MOOCs are offered by colleges and universities, but are typically administered separately. In recent years edX, Coursera and Udacity have sprung up, partnering with universities that are located chiefly in the US with some Canadian and European representation too.
An Emerging Model
Most MOOC models are still emerging and do not yet have a money-making component, with the universities or venture capitalists offering initial funding. Proctored exams may make it possible for MOOCs to begin to generate revenue, although students usually can take courses and avoid fees.
The catch here is that students do not usually receive college credit, but they do benefit from learning which is the crux of the MOOC movement. Imagine students in remote Africa or in the teeming slums of Manila gaining access to higher education that otherwise would be beyond their affordability. An educated populace can help change the world for the better as global knowledge increases.
Common MOOC Attributes
There are some common attributes of MOOCs that prospective students should look for and they include:
1. Open registration. Anyone can register and anyone can take courses. Typically, however, students must be at least 13 years of age.
2. At your own pace. Some MOOC courses have a clear beginning and ending date while others do not. Most, however, allow students to set their own pace of study. This is important for students that require the utmost flexibility.
3. A qualified instructor. Some of the top names in academia are MOOC participants. They are paid by their universities and their roles are still taking shape. Some worry that professor intellectual property is being threatened, an issue that is currently being debated.
4. The students. MOOCs are supposed to encourage learning with students working with each other, some in mentoring roles and others in a collaborative capacity. Bringing disparate groups of people together is a challenge, something that most MOOCs are still trying to iron out. Understanding English may be a challenge for some students.
5. Open content. Paying for textbooks is a cost poor students cannot bear, therefore most content is offered at no cost to students. MOOCs make use of online documents and other instructional materials that can be accessed for free.
MOOCs, while revolutionary, cannot exist in a vacuum. Support from academia is essential for without the best instructors provided, MOOCs would be little more than an enrichment course. University administrators must find out where their institutions fit in and strike a balance between paid and free or greatly reduced educational access. Few universities can afford to simply give it all away especially for the long term.