Massive Open Online Courses: Tool For Democratizing Higher Education

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are making lot of buzz these days for the following reasons:

  • Open access,
  • Free to participants, and
  • An online alternative to more formal courses.

MOOCs  are used as  a tool for democratizing higher education. While the vast potential of free online courses has excited theoretical interest for decades, in the past few months hundreds of thousands of motivated students around the world who lack access to elite universities have been embracing them as a path toward sophisticated skills and high-paying jobs, without paying tuition or collecting a college degree.

MOOCs are led by high-profile instructors and universities and described as “a model for delivering learning content online to virtually any person – and as many of them – who wants to take the course.”

How are the roles of students and instructors changing with the MOOC model?

  • Depending on how the MOOC is structured, learners may have options available for creating their own experience, communicating with other participants, and interacting with the course materials.
  • Participants had primarily experienced MOOCs as learners themselves.

What are the implications of MOOC-style offerings from traditional universities (i.e. Stanford, MIT, and Georgia Tech)?

A focus on the quality level of interactions between learners and instructors is more relevant than the institution that is offering the course.

Should academic credit be awarded for MOOC participation?

  • The development of some type of credit or credential is important to the future of MOOCs.
  • It really depends on the course. A range of options for learning assessment and documentation are possible from academic credit and prior learning assessment models to digital badges and certificates.
  • Education and industry will need to agree on the format and standards for any type of credential or certification that may be awarded through participation in a MOOC.
  • “The entire dynamic of a MOOC would change if offering academic credit.” MOOCs seem to be driven by motivated learners, looking more for enrichment than documented achievement. “But that is changing…”
  • “MOOC” may refer to a range of approaches and is “evolving from the ‘pure’ form”. There has been recent discussion about the name itself and a change may be needed to help differentiate types of learning experiences that are called “MOOCs.”

“Online, with embedded quizzes, everyone has to try to answer the questions. And anyonedoesn’t understand, then can go back and listen over and over until they do.” Just as a child who falls while learning to ride a bike is not told “You get a D,” but is encouraged to keep trying.

Adapted From “#IOLchat Report: MOOCs in the News”.  Click here to read the complete story.

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