These days, massive open online courses (MOOCs) are often heralded as the next revolution in education. A long-awaited revolution, and one expected by many for the past two decades. But do these MOOCs really hold the solution to what we need?
It remains uncertain just how it will influence the future of education, but we can already foresee its impact on the future of e-learning. The most successful platforms offer students much more interactivity and control over what they learn. This is undoubtedly a common effect of the digitisation of our society: people want to be able to control what they watch, what they listen and – eventually - what they learn.
Better yet, massive open online courses offer the opportunity of tailored, personalised education. What time of the day do you best learn maths? What type of exercises help you best memorise key information in history or biology? All the data is gathered by a software that gradually creates a refined and customized teaching method; that way your experience of learning is made more efficient and effortless.
Formal education has remained one of the few sectors that haven’t been profoundly transformed by digital technologies. It’s hard not to see that the way we live, work, communicate and learn (outside of schools) has changed. From news to culture, research and data analysis, information seeking and the workplace itself… each aspect of our lives has been altered and each sector has undergone a crisis of some kind. Maybe it is time for education to jump on the bandwagon.
Needless to say, there some things you just can’t learn online. Things that involve a certain degree of manual work or human relations for example. But let’s look reality in the eye: if education is a means to social mobility through the prospect of better jobs… then you must consider the fact that an ever-growing number of jobs require merely a computer (and a few fingers) to be performed. Some recent initiatives such as edX aim in fact at blending online courses with classroom learning to take the best from both experiences. Certainly, doing a whole bachelor’s degree from home can get a bit lonely. And it isn’t quite the best way to develop social skills, let alone to preserve your mental stability.
While many worry about the crisis universities will face as free online education becomes more widespread, they don’t realise that the costs of running this type of website and software are such that MOOCs will eventually have to charge their students. Most universities understand this and that’s why they agree to join in the “revolution”, although it’s also a way not to be left behind with technological change and its impact on our lives. “Embrace MOOCs or die ignoring them”, some might claim reluctantly.
For now it works quite symbiotically: MOOCs provide much needed innovations in education, while universities provide renowned professors and the promise of real diplomas for online students in a near future.
How MOOCs can change the future of classrooms and e-learning:
- Information exchange with the professor or university about the quality of the educational material or teaching;
- Better information retention & understanding;
- More collaborative work between students in the form of projects - better suited to the 21st century workplace;
- A more flexible and personalised learning experience
One other obvious advantage of MOOCs: it makes education more democratic. The consequence of this is that it gives everybody a shot at education. As long as you have an internet connection and basic education that is. Provided this, it gives potentially anyone a shot at higher education not to mention that it’s also an unprecedented opportunity to discover new geniuses across the world.
When it comes to building efficient massive open online courses or innovative e-learning solutions and websites, this is still very much a work in progress and you won’t find that many experts who can claim experience in this domain. So you don’t need to worry, it’s far from being too late to jump on that bandwagon. MOOCs might be getting a lot of hype but all the signs show that the revolution of e-learning is only in its first steps.