Massive Online Open Courses or MOOCs have gained quite a bit of popularity in the last five years.
The word ‘massive’ is to be understood in the sense that 100,000 learners or more at the same time have open and equal opportunities to attend these courses. MOOCs are truly a tremendous technological leap, and what makes them so attractive is that they don’t imply any cost to learners.
What are MOOCs and how were they created?
A Massive Online Open Course falls under the category of distance education, in the tradition of education by correspondence and other forms of learning at a distance. In a MOOC, there are many forms of ‘distance’ that can be accounted for through computing technology.
Learners can be distant from their instructors and still attend a course. A wide array of students from around the world are taking classes ‘together’. These students are the most technologically advanced international real-time peers in history!
In some MOOCs, students can sign on to a webcast with 50,000 other students and participate in live instruction with a real professor. In other MOOCs, the enrollment may be 1,000 students following weekly learning modules with materials provided by the MOOC creators.
While numbers vary, the access potential for MOOCs makes it a prime tool for bridging some of the educational and digital divides that exist in and between countries around the world.
Which are the most important MOOC providers?
Can I take MOOCs for credit?
Most MOOCs are cost-free for students. However, it depends on the provider, as some may charge for things like course completion certificates or exams. In addition, the materials associated with a MOOC may come with some costs, although most of them are provided in the online format at no cost.
Schools like the University of Maryland University College were among the first that provided and accepted massive online open courses for credit. Now, many schools are considering the implications of offering MOOCs for credit.
Starting from 2014, more institutions opened their virtual doors to students giving them access to various academic fields–for free!
3. Why do universities offer MOOCs?
A free course for credit at a university can act as a great introduction to the school and encourage students toward full-time enrollment. On the other hand, MOOCs may also suggest a major loss of income for colleges and universities, and some suggest they have implications for the future of the current forms of higher education.
Are MOOCs an evolutionary turning point in higher education? This question is currently up for debate in the academic world. The most common thought is that they will become more and more popular and will change the format of higher education as we know it today.
For the University of Maryland University College, this wave of MOOC offerings is part of a study to understand how MOOCs can prepare non-traditional adult students for a traditional college/university experience.
4. What is the point of taking a MOOC?
The importance of MOOCs in education, and especially in higher education, is currently a hot topic. For some students and educators, MOOCs present challenges in terms of quality, consistency, and delivery of courses and programmes.
The question in itself raises other questions like: Are students moving toward a common goal? Are there quality educators present to guide students through the materials? How do we measure the academic rigour of these courses?
Educators are challenging the quality of learning that MOOCs can provide and the competencies and skills that students can gain. Educators and learners are asking ‘if everything that can be learned online can be considered “online learning”? For learners looking for MOOCs to boost their knowledge in many different areas, MOOCs are indeed a learning tool and are a part of online learning.
MOOCs can bring knowledge to students who may not have access otherwise, and be of use to learners who can’t afford the costs of higher education. Non-traditional education realized through a MOOCs is a useful form of online learning and can complement traditional university learning.
5. Will I receive any certificate after completing a MOOC?
In most cases, students will not automatically receive a certificate for completing a MOOC due to the fact that currently, none of the MOOC providers offers free certificates.
However, if you pay a fee (usually a small one), MOOC providers offer paid certificates once you complete a MOOC. Usually, students will have to provide proof they actually attended the online course and each MOOC provider has a different system regarding these paid certificates.
Carefully read the individual information about any certificates available, and the costs involved, for any MOOC(s) you are thinking of enrolling in.
6. Will I have to take assignments or exams during a MOOC?
Most MOOCs don’t require students to sit to any exam, they just include a range of learning activities designed to assist students to build their skills and knowledge and students will have to demonstrate they acquired those skills.
Suggestions of small assignments may occur in between classes but most times, these are not mandatory. Assignments are simply meant to help students build their abilities and competences and to have a better understanding of the material that was taught.
7. Why are MOOCs so popular?
As a global society, getting an education has become increasingly important, but increasingly difficult beyond the high school level. Institutions of higher education present the obstacles of entrance examinations, tuition, distance, living expenses, and so much more. All over the world, there are universities that are opening their virtual doors to students in the form of MOOCs.
Ivy League institutions like Harvard in Boston, Massachusetts are offering MOOCs that range from education to bioengineering. In addition to top-tier schools offering free courses, companies such as Apple offer free courses creation tools for educators through iTunes.
These are two examples of how learners and educators can take advantage of or create a MOOC learning experience. Many more tools like these are available through platforms such as Coursera, edX, Udacity, and Udemy. This is just a shortlist. Many other companies and universities are creating open online learning structures for any student interested in learning.
There are still many questions and many debates about what MOOCs do and what they can provide for learners. Here’s some more information you can read on MOOCs. The most important goal when you are considering participation in online learning experiences through a MOOC is what you as the learner want to gain from the experience.