MOOCs – Friend or Foe??

2012 has been dubbed “The Year of the MOOC” (Massive Open Online Course) because of the huge amount of attention that MOOCs have received. Don’t know what a MOOC is? See a quick definition here. Along with all the publicity they’ve been getting, there’s been a good deal of controversy surrounding MOOCs too. Arguments questioning the true “openness” of MOOCs have sprouted up everywhere, and many doubt the quality of education that MOOCs deliver to individuals. While most MOOCs out there are free to the public, there are several drawbacks that may deter colleges & universities from accepting MOOC transfer credit. This week I attended an interesting webinar – MOOCs: An Evolving Model of Curriculum Delivery and Assessment hosted by College Open Textbooks Community. Carol Edwards, Finance Instructor at the British Columbia Institute of Technology, shared her experience with MOOCs— and it’s not very pretty. Carol enrolled in two for-profit MOOCs to gain an understanding of the student experience. These were her take-aways:

  • For-profit MOOCs = the fast food of education
  • In order to generate large revenues, MOOC providers enroll unmanageably large numbers of students in their courses
  • Students receive minimal feedback, none of which is from a subject expert
  • No professional support
  • Delivery method encourages cheating
  • No ID required to enroll
  • Over 90% of enrolled students drop out or fail the course
  • MOOC providers insist that learners rely purely on peers for instruction and grading, and there are no requirements to be a peer tutor
  • Peers were found to be ignorant of subject matter, proper instruction, and intelligent grading
  • Grading carried out by a computer was disappointing and insufficient; there were no calculations graded—only answers, no partial marks, and no immediate personal feedback on answers.

Another downside to MOOCs that I might add is that they are not “open” in the sense that open educational resources (OERs) are. Yes, they are usually free to enroll in, but unlike OERs, you can’t actually revise and redistribute the content to others. I suppose MOOCs are an example of what happens when you take the instructor out of the picture.

OERs are a great way to supplement and improve great teaching, at no cost. Open Tapestry helps you find OERs from across the web with a simple search. Try it out (it’s free!) and see how you can improve learning and simplify lesson prep.

What are your thoughts about MOOCs? Friend or foe? And should they be considered “open” or not?

5 thoughts on “MOOCs – Friend or Foe??

    • That’s an insightful comparison Maurice. MOOCs are receiving a lot of hype right now, but I guess we’ll just have to wait and see if they will actually deliver on the claims that people are making about them with regards to education.

    • I think that is a great way to use MOOCs, and I believe that is what they were actually intended for. Supplementing coursework, as opposed to completely replacing it, is probably what MOOCs are best at. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

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