March 05 2013

The Role of MOOCs in Online Education

MOOCs The Future of Higher Education

Over the past few years, Americans have embraced free online courses, a trend that the entire world now seems to be following. MOOC undoubtedly remains the most important and talked-about trend in education history. It is responsible for the change as well as the continuous growth of online education. The key features of Massive Open Online Courses mainly revolve around large-scale participation and online access.


The coining of the term Massive Open Online Courses followed a common course that was given to a small number of tuition-paying students at the University of Manitoba, early in 2008. Afterwards, another group of 2,300 students from the general public also participated in the course through free online classes. Course content was provided via RSS feeds and students were given a number of options for the tools they could choose to use. The term MOOC was coined by Dave Cormier and Brian Alexander in response to the given online course, and soon after, many other MOOCs emerged.


MOOCs represent the latest stage in the evolution of open educational resources. Initially, people could openly access course content over the web. This structure later evolved to accessing free online courses. And now accredited institutions are accepting MOOCs, together with free courses and experiential learning, as part of the needed credit toward achieving a degree. Although MOOCs are similar to college courses, currently they do not include academic credit. However, other forms of certification and assessment are offered, some of which depend on the learning analytics of the online environs. The future trends demonstrate a possibility whereby a completely free online curriculum would be offered leading to a degree from an accredited institution. In such a situation, students may be required to pay for the certification of their credentials but not for the process leading to their acquisition.

Advantages of MOOCs

MOOCs have become an obsession with the media as their popularity continues to grow. One of the main factors behind this obsession is the fact that MOOC models generally appeal to economic elites. This group of individuals is attracted to the promising benefits in an economic environment that characterize these models, such that each and every person is chasing the limited opportunities that feature very high returns. Secondly, MOOCs seem to satisfy the economic worries of the middle-class. With today's high tuition fees, middle-class parents view this system as a part of a mission aimed at flattening the frustrating costs of higher education. Finally, another main factor contributing to the popularity of MOOCs is the fact that the higher education system is increasingly growing in scale. As a result, MOOCs prove to be an ideal method of teaching the increasing number of students in an efficient way.

Demerits of MOOCs

As the wise men would say it, everything good comes with its bad side; there is always the other side of the coin. Critics argue that the internet is a great destroyer of any form of traditional business. Although living on campus may be more costly and the spaces available may also be limited, campus living is considered more ideal as educational services are rendered face-to-face, which proves to be more effective. Traditional learning offers room for more tangible practical sessions and the lecturers also get to keenly observe the progress of students and alert them to problems where necessary. The fact that there are people seated in a classroom in the traditional setting offers room for competition and consultation among the students. With competition, students tend to rate themselves and strive to make improvements; this is the exact opposite case in MOOCs since the students at times may not even know each other, as they do not interact in person. All these advantages derived from traditional learning are missed out when people choose to settle for MOOCs.

Diana Wicks holds a Bachelor's degree in Journalism from the London School of Economics. She also holds a Master's in Business Administration from the same institution. When she isn't contributing to education resource website Degree Jungle, Wicks works as a writer at Demand Studios.


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  • [...] Over the past few years, Americans have embraced free online courses, a trend that the entire world now seems to be following. MOOC undoubtedly remains the most important and talked-about trend in education history.  [...]

    Posted by The Role of MOOC in Online Education - Open Creative Communications | MOOCs The Future of Education? |, 01/07/2013 9:51am (6 years ago)

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