MOOCs are the abbreviation of Massive Open Online Courses, a concept that is being considered by institutes of higher learning. This is in order to let hundreds; even thousands of students attend one class at the same time, without being bound by location, time and space constraints. Some have considered MOOCs to be the future of colleges and universities.
It sounds like a good idea. After all, many students deserve to be in the best universities, but financial, distance and quota restricts many of them. Why should they, or anyone, be deprived of a quality education, if there is an alternative available? A non-profit MOOC company named edX opened up MIT courses to students in 2011 and garnered an enrollment of about 150,000 students from all over the world.
Of course, some may argue that MOOCs would do away with the quality of higher education by making it common. There are several other reasons why MOOCs are seen as either a positive or negative development. Some of them are listed below:
- Pro: Almost Free
Other than what students would pay for their Internet connection, MOOCs are, by definition, free or almost free. Even those that are paid usually have a free trial for a few weeks, and then a nominal fee. On the university or college side, the recording and uploading costs are also next to nothing in the long run. However, this brings us to a related disadvantage.
- Con: Won’t Be Free For Long
As the demand for MOOCs increases, the cost of them is likely to rise. This is because better and more recordings would be required. Some professors might rightly demand an increase in their salary if they are expected to release their knowledge to students outside the classroom. All these costs would probably result in the real quality MOOCs going up in price.
- Pro: Overcrowding Not A Problem
Several colleges and universities have massive waiting lists. Some online courses could really help students who are on these waiting lists, or those who have taken a semester off for some reason. Some states are now considering bills to make colleges accept credits for completed MOOCs that can contribute towards the completion of a degree. Like the first pro, however, this one also gives rise to a con that could cancel it out.
- Con: Not Much One-On-One Time
What is one of the most attractive features of any elite school, college or university? The low student-teacher ratio. The lower it is, the smaller the classes are, and the more focus each student gets from the teachers and professors. What do you think happens when the actual number of students in a class goes from tens to thousands? Either the online students would get little or no attention from the teacher, or the students in the real classroom would get neglected by the teacher while he/she is trying to focus on and help all the students as best as they can. This seems a most worrisome potential problem in the usage of MOOCs.
- Pro: Bringing People And Cultures Together
The thought of people in Africa, Asia, Europe, Australia and America attending the same class at the same time while still in their respective countries could bring a whole new dynamic to a class, provided that a certain level of interaction could be included. In online systems such as WizIQ, there are options for the students to chat with each other and the teacher. The different viewpoints and experience according to the culture of different countries could create a rich, comprehensive learning experience, much more than if students from different countries were in the minority in a real classroom.
Then again, having students from drastically different countries could create its own problems.
- Con: Culture Clashes
Apart from the input of different cultures and senses of right and wrong creating confusion if not properly monitored, the same philosophy of social rights, justice or religion cannot be taught across countries. A Western professor would probably not understand the deep-rooted feelings of religion and the closeness to the family that a South Asian student is likely to feel. There is bound to be frustration, resentment, and disinterest if the teacher puts his own philosophy first without considering those of the students.
On the other hand, to take everyone’s sensitive points into consideration and still teach a course is probably next to impossible, especially if the subject is within the realm of the social sciences.
MOOCs are an excellent use of today’s advanced technology. They can either help out a student in his actual classes at college or university or sharpen the skills of anyone who doesn’t have the time to enroll in actual courses. If used rightly, MOOCs may be the future of higher education. However, several steps would have to be taken to ensure that the disadvantages don’t cancel out the advantages of such courses.
Anna Marsh is an avid proponent of online education but still knows the value of a proper Online Essay writing classroom education. She seeks a way to blend the two together as much as possible. You can connect with her on Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus.