Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Rise of MOOCs

In an article I posted a few months ago, I tried to explain changes that are affecting our world, from the way we get information to how we create energy. The Internet has been one of the largest contributors to these changes, allowing people to communicate and share ideas with each other from across the globe.
In the field of education, the Internet has brought innovation by providing billions of people with the ability to explore any topic they desire, independent of their age or socioeconomic class. One creation that has stemmed from the Internet are Massive Open Online Courses or MOOCs. These are online classes that are taught by professors, available to anyone free of charge. Through university initiatives and startup companies such as Udacity, Coursera, and edX, colleges are able to distribute their courses to online audiences.
Finding a way to make MOOCs profitable has become a problem for these universities and companies. Udacity has partnered with large companies such as AT&T and Google to provide training for employees, while Cousera offers certificates of completion for a fee. Some universities have begun using online courses to teach supplemental programs to students. Harvard has begun using online classes to teach credit or degree classes through the Harvard Extension School, and Harvard Business School has begun offering online degrees through HBX. In 2013, Wharton was the first business school to publish MOOC versions of its first year MBA classes.
This summer, I was able to participate in a MOOC offered by Harvard called CS50. CS50 is an introductory to computer science class. Through filmed lectures, supplemental videos, and online coursework, I was able to participate in a class that was similar to what undergraduates at Harvard were taking. The CS50 staff has incorporated online chat groups, forums, and videos into the online class to allow students to interact with one another online, but there is still a large aspect of social interaction that is lost.
Though, I believe MOOCs are a great way to learn additional knowledge or refresh skills, I do not think that they are a replacement to a college education, yet. Peer interaction, study groups, and extra-help sessions are not very accessible when participating in a MOOC. San Jose State University recently found that their students who were taught via online courses received lower test scores than those who were taught in a classroom. Online lectures do provide students with valuable resources, as teachers are able to “flip” their classroom and students can watch lectures that they may have missed or not understood. In the future, I believe that more students will begin replacing college classes with MOOCs if universities are able to recreate an experience that is similar to what students in a physical classroom atmosphere experience.