MOOC’s: A Revolutionary Change or Just a Lateral Transformation?

Updated: Nov 29, 2018

The New York Times hailed 2012 “The Year of the MOOC”. There was and still is a lot of excitement about MOOC’s; but there are those who are not so quick to jump on the bandwagon. Many have deemed MOOC’s as being revolutionary. I too believed it would be an opportunity to change online education; but here we are, on the brink of 2014. I often ask myself, “Where’s the revolution?”, “Where is the radical change in online education?”, “What is significantly different since the MOOC craze began?”

When I think of the term “revolutionary”, I think of “drastic change”, “massive overhaul” and “innovative alteration”. However, when I look at the current state of MOOC’s, I don’t see anything revolutionary about them. To me, MOOC’s are simply online courses reaching a massive number of individuals. The only difference between MOOC’s and current online courses offered at institutions is the number of students served. So, again I ask myself, “What’s so revolutionary about more students having access to these courses?” The proponents of MOOC’s would answer by stating students have access to courses taught by top professors, almost all the courses are free, students can learn various topics ranging from applied ethics to calculus and MOOC’s are useful for remediation as well as professional development. Those are valid points. However, my follow-up question to their response would ask whether MOOC’s are really required for those things to occur. Free information has been available to students for decades…centuries. Most information can be found in a book in a LIBRARY. For individuals with internet access, they can perform a Google search or view YouTube videos to learn. The internet is technically a MOOC. Now don’t get me wrong, I like the idea about MOOC’s placing content for a particular subject in a single course. It’s a lot easier to learn information by visiting a single site rather than searching the Internet or finding relevant books in a library. With that being said, I wouldn’t use the term revolutionary to describe MOOC’s.

So, what can be done to truly make MOOC’s revolutionary and not just a lateral transformation? To effectively address this question, it requires thoughtful discussion regarding the following inquiries:

  • Should the current MOOC model remain relatively the same with a few adjustments or should we start anew?

  • Should we build from old education models or develop new innovative ones?

  • What changes in pedagogy can be done to improve the online learning environment and subsequently increase the low success rates of MOOC’s?

  • What can be done to maintain the integrity of MOOC’s?

  • Should there be changes to the learning platform (i.e. LMS)?

  • Should online courses really be “massive” and can these courses truly be effective in teaching and learning?

Creating a dialogue and skillfully implementing the necessary changes are crucial to making MOOC’s revolutionary. Otherwise, MOOC’s in their current state are simply not groundbreaking aspects to online education.

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