MOOC Mania

1254520_teamwork__1One of the biggest buzzwords in Distance Learning these days is the MOOC which stands for a Massive Open Online Course.  The concept is all the rage and has been picked up my more and more big players in Higher Education, from Stanford to MIT to Harvard.  The idea is that these schools are offering online courses that are open and free for anyone to take, generally with no upper limit on the number of enrolled students.  The idea is not a new one but technologies have progressed far enough that these are becoming widely popular.

These MOOCs seeing hundreds of thousands of students signing up to take the same 8 week course led by a top faculty member from a prestigious university.  It’s not hard to see why these are popular with students.  In fact, I have enrolled myself into several different MOOCs and am about to complete my first one, just to see what all the fuss is about.

Not surprisingly, most of these courses are little more than self-directed, online tutorials. True, the content was developed by a leading expert and there are interactions between students, but there are some key pieces to successful learning that appears to be missing from these courses.  For example, there is little or no interaction with the instructor and the VAST majority of students lack motivation for completion.  I’ve heard statistics ranging from 3 – 5% completion rates.  Yes, just 3-5% of the students actually finish a typical MOOC.  Still, when there are over a 100,000 enrollees, 3% is a sizeable number of students successfully completing the course.

What remains to be seen is how the universities plan to leverage access to free online content into revenue, more students, or higher quality programs.  If you’d like to learn more about MOOCs, a simple Google search will yield an overwhelming number of resources.  The sites with which I have familiarized myself over the last few months include Coursera, Udemy, Udacity and EdX.  There are many more.

Also, I encourage you check out the recent article from the New York Times, “The Year of the MOOC” to learn even more about this trend.

In an upcoming piece, I plan to walk through what these MOOCs mean for Wayland and whether they will play any role in the future of our online programs.

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