The Future of MOOCs

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Not all of us are fortunate enough to be able to follow our preferred courses in our dream universities and colleges. Studying abroad is a pocket-pinch and isn’t possible for several without a scholarship. Lack of funds, not meeting the eligibility criteria are two of the major obstacles that almost all people applying to the top colleges face. However do not let that deter you from following your dream; rather than losing heart and getting de-motivated, go be a part of a MOOC. For all those still unaware of this type of education, that has swept the world: MOOC is acronym for “Massive Open on-line Course”. MOOC is an alternative form of education that emerged in 2012 and is geared toward limitless participation and open access via the web. MOOCs in addition to traditional resources like videos, quizzes, readings, and problem sets provide interactive user forums that helps to facilitate a community for college students, professors, and teaching assistants from all over the world.
Before MOOCs entered the equation, distance education was through correspondence courses with two modes of delivery: synchronous learning and asynchronous learning. In synchronous learning, all participants have to be present at the same time and place. While in asynchronous learning, the course material can be accessed at the leisure of the participants and student. It is not mandatory for college students to be together at the same time and place. Distance education provides the alternative to price-soaring higher education. It is cost effective and permits one to fit it right into their schedule in any manner they please. Distance Education can even be a viable technique for home-schooling for all those students who are unable to attend schools and colleges attributable to some health drawback or another problem.

With the digitization, Distance learning in its traditional form gave way to MOOCs. The term MOOC was coined in 2008 by Dave Cormier of the University of Prince Edward Island and Senior analysis Fellow Bryan Alexander of the National Institute for Technology in Liberal Education. And there has been a massive growth in this area since 2012. Technology is changing our lifestyle and  is also in process of changing the traditional model of instruction and education services. MOOCs are expanding the way people look at education and has the potential to change the way we learn and think. It democratizes education worldwide and is one way to prompt new ways to think and plan. MOOCs help us rediscover the concept of active learning, instant feedback and peer assessment. Students worldwide are taking up MOOCs not just to add to their knowledge bank but also to boost to their CVs or resume because after you complete a course successfully you are awarded a certificate for it which hold immense value.

The top three MOOC providers are as follows:
1. EdX is a platform founded by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University in May 2012. The two institutions have each contributed $30 million of resources to the nonprofit project and it has more than 2.1 million users in 176 courses online
2. Coursera is a for-profit educational technology company, launched in April 2012, founded by computer science professors Andrew Ng and Daphne Koller from Stanford University. Coursera as of now has 7.1 million users in 641 courses from 108 institutions
3. Udacity is a for-profit educational organization founded by Sebastian Thrun, David Stavens, and Mike Sokolsky in February 2012. Udacity is the outgrowth of free computer science classes offered in 2011 through Stanford University and as of now Udacity has 1.6 million users in 12 full courses and 26 free courseware.

(Source: Wikipedia)

Just as a coin has two sides to it, everything has its pros and cons:

The Pros

• It is totally free, has no eligibility criteria and might be availed whenever you wish
• Easily accessible to anyone with an internet connection
• Gets you a certification once you have completed the course with success
• Provides a solution to overcrowding in traditional classrooms
• Are designed to make sure that students sustain.
• Brings people together from all over the planet and promotes peer assessment
• Feedback is instantaneous
• Students with special needs might like a more non-public atmosphere than the lecture hall.

The Cons

• MOOCs are massive however the completion rates are low with nearly 90% dropouts
• Makes discussion with the teacher or the peers a challenge. There are alternatives however the intimacy of face-to-face communication is lost, emotions usually misunderstood
• Cannot substitute the standard face-to-face exchanges and is extremely impersonal in nature.
• Grading papers is not possible. Even with the assistance of graduate students, grading tens of thousands of essays or analysis papers is intimidating
• Makes it easier for college students to drop out
• Some courses are ideal for online delivery – others aren’t
• Lack of personalization required for factual learning
• MOOCs aren’t really free. To provide these top quality resources, somebody needs to pay for them even if it isn’t the students. So it is possible that in the near future MOOCs may not be completly free.

In the end, the future of MOOCs depend upon both the teachers who teach them and also the students who demand them. It is upon us on how we see it: as a hindrance or as a stepping stone to a brighter future.

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