I don’t think so.
Distance learning is not a new concept. Open University in the UK was established in 1969 and was built exclusively as a distance learning institution. Although it is a research institute and has its physical campus, the majority of students are learning off-class. Now times have changed, and the Internet enhanced the experience of distance learning. With our computers, we can enroll in any course we find online for free with a click of a mouse and learn, without interruptions from our routines.
MOOCs is the term for a group of facilities that provide online courses. The abbreviation stands for Massive Open Online Courses, with the most recognizable brands being Coursera, edX, Udemy Free Courses, etc. Numerous websites collected the list of MOOCs for our convenience (example 1, example 2, example 3).
MOOCs are great in the way that they allow a student to enjoy his or her power of freedom–time management, flexible deadlines (or lack thereof, if one does not intend to get a certificate upon completion), affordable and limited participation, no need to commute, what have you.
Technologically speaking, yes–MOOCs are a harbinger of the upgraded future. But learningwise, is this the way to go? Perhaps not. MOOCs lack the oh-so-necessary human factor in education. Peter Struck, whose course on Ancient Greek and Roman mythology I tried to take for three times on Coursera (but failed to complete), said in his interview to Huffington Post: “Where you have a back-and-forth, interrogating each other ideas, finding shades of gray in each other’s ideas, I don’t know how much of that you can do in a MOOC” (Pope, 2013). Indeed, one cannot involve all other senses that are there in the classroom if he or she sits in his own house and it is not for sure paying enough attention or being interested in keeping the conversation going.
MOOCs have not yet shown the general public is ready for them. Nick Morrison in his article on the Forbes website mentioned that drop-out rates are high, feedback is obscure, and academic integrity is very much in question (Morrison, 2014). He argued, rather, that MOOCs can provide the knowledge for which there is no place in a traditional classroom (Morrison, 2014). In that sense, MOOCs can satisfy the need for information that one craves for but does not find in a school curriculum, which shows that motivational factors play a huge role for students.
To conclude, I want to say that the topic — MOOCs and the Future — is fascinating and has many dimensions to it. In further posts, I’m planning to look into whether online courses should or should not be free, whether it should or should not give out certificates, what role instructors play in them, whether MOOCs’ credits should be transferable in actual institutions of higher learning, and more.
Morrison, Nick. (2014, June 25). The future of MOOCs in the classroom. Forbes. Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com
Pope, Justin. (2013, January 20). MOOCs gaining popularity, but new frontier for scaling up online classes is course credit. Huffington Post. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com