It seems nearly everyone agrees that MOOCs – massive open online courses – signal the end of traditional universities and sharply climbing tuition. Proposals by state legislators aim to substitute online courses for in-person public university education. Online course enrollment has risen 29% since 2010, while conventional university course enrollment has declined. (Babson Survey Research Group)
Are MOOCs the Answer?
Some research points to higher dropout rates and lower grades associated with online learning. Prominent education scholars dismiss MOOCs, citing the dangers of substituting traditional education. Some employers prefer to hire traditionally educated candidates. Some students find MOOC-based learning lonely.
Amin Saberi, cofounder of NovoEd stated, “Online learning requires more self-discipline and motivation than traditional higher education taught in person by professors who can answer questions and hold office hours.” He continues, ““Education is not just transfer of content. We need to bring the students in, motivate them, and create an environment where they can go farther.”
Proponents, on the other hand, claim patience is needed. As the evolution of search engines brought us Google, MOOCs must also evolve. More research is needed to better understand how MOOCs play a part in so-called “blended learning” – relying on technology to improve teaching quality on campuses. MOOCs can widen educational access and open the doors to understanding more about how students learn, at which times, how they problem solve, etc.
Can MOOCs Change Education As We Know It?
Where people have less access to traditional education, such as in rural locales and developing countries, MOOCs expose them to quality community-based classrooms, often for free, and according to what the student is most excited about learning. Parents juggling family and full-time jobs can access MOOCs on their own time. Even high school students can participate in MOOCs to get a jump on college, or learn more about topics of interest.
25 years ago, bricks-and-mortar companies asked, “Why would I need a web site?” Today, employers and traditional educational institutions are asking, “Do we really need MOOCs?” Some are beginning to see the light, offering certificate courses that can help students get better jobs and earn degrees. IN another 25 years, we may wonder how education took place without MOOCs.