October 9, 2013

Is MOOC a Game Changer in Education?

Hi Guys,

MOOC or Massive Open Online Course has been in the limelight in the recent past as a major breakthrough in education. A MOOC is an online course wherein a technology firm signs up with a top notch university to provide a course to students across the globe. Though there are lot of websites doing this, Coursera has been one famous site providing MOOC. Coursera has tied up with many of the leading universities to provide courses across many streams like Engineering, Arts, Humanities, Management, etc. Recently it has come up with a concept known as ‘Signature track’ wherein the student pays a nominal fee and get certified by the providing university.

Is it a really a game changer? Well, MOOC is widely considered as higher learning platform, where learning occurs voluntarily and not by force. In real world, a student attends a college or a university. A professor frames the course, provides resources and guides students to learn the course with the help of lectures, projects and exams. In today’s integrated world, all the materials are available online. If I google Thermodynamics, I’ll get enough materials to master the subject. But, the problem is I won’t know the order or how to get into the subject. A professor facilitates that. If you have doubts, you ask the professor. You get clarified. The professor constructs it in such a way that you get the subject (Though, not many people would agree with that!). You have friends who would have different opinion. It will lead to knowledge development.

A MOOC is somewhere between a real university and the self-search. A professor records his lecture and slides and presents it to you. He gives you reference material. You have assignments, quizzes and peer evaluation. You can learn on your own. But, it would be individual learning and you can’t go back to the professor to get clarified. A MOOC cannot replace real education, but it provides you a framework to learn on your own.

Let me quote a personal example. After joining a few courses in Coursera about varied topics, I discontinued them due to lack of time or the complexity of the course. Recently I completed a course on Social Psychology. If there was no coursera, I would have had no idea on how to know about Social Psychology. Still, I might not have in depth knowledge in the subject, but I know something from the subject.

Dennis Yang, president of another famous MOOC provider Udemy says that MOOC is in the peak of Gartner Hype Cycle (see picture). It is in the peak of expectations and wild swings are expected. People say MOOC is the future of education and can spread education at a low cost. MIT Open courseware has been giving away the course materials free of cost for a long time. It hasn’t created a big learning for you can’t replicate the professors of MIT.
Garner Hype cycle - MOOC is said to be in the peak of the cycle.
Many other points are to be considered. A MOOC does not allow you to gain practical insights. It doesn’t boost peer learning (Discussion forums are not peer learning). The quizzes and evaluation might not reflect the true learning. There are few advantages too. It is easy for you to find a course you like and enrol just for the fun of knowing (If you are person like me, you will enjoy it). It enables you to connect with peers across world and get to know how they think about certain aspects. Features like Google Hangout enable people to come in and interact and enable some amount of peer learning.

Generally, lot of people join a course. But only one-tenth of people complete a course. It requires some self-motivation and commitment to stay with the course. I would say MOOC would not become a game changer in the near course of time. But, they definitely help spreading knowledge and can evolve over a period of time.

Happy Reading!

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