Should MOOCs be free?

I strongly believe yes–for two reasons: (1) They will not replace universities anyway; (2) Knowledge should be open to all people, not only to the privileged few.

I think, MOOCs cannot replace traditional universities. For 800 years, this has not happened despite a staggering leap from Medieval times to modernity. Technologies per se do not define the future, they are rather means for making life better. Universities integrated technologies on the highest level, they function not as solely diploma providers (although this is a problem in so many parts of the world, like in Belarus) but also research centers that carry out scientific research, attract best scientists to work on issues, find external resources, and make progress in their fields. Universities allow people to get professional training in an environment one can never repeat at home by simply managing one’s own time.

Not only that but also we have to take into account that the courses online are only a fraction of the courses that universities provide. It looks more like an intriguing mechanism for online learners and a marketing tool. Sort of, “Have a look at what our university courses look like, it’s much more interesting with us anyway.” I don’t think universities post their best courses online, because such courses make those universities unique. Also, one university can never be sure that another one will simply use that course and implement it in their place on a commercial basis. For example, if I am a teacher in Russia, who loved the course on edX on management, who stops me from localizing it for my audience of students? It will have the same value as an online course, yet a certificate, if at all, does not mean much, but in their transcripts my students will have a good course and will remember me as a good teacher. This is unethical, yet literally who will care? So, my point is: Universities share the courses online that are good but that are not their signature courses with the purpose of attracting people to pay attention to that university if one decides to do formal education.

Yet those good courses, albeit not best, still have a lot to offer to those who don’t have a chance to go to university but is craving for knowledge. Some people can’t afford it, others had their twists of the fate that don’t make it possible to become a student (e.g., too busy with a family). The magnetism of online courses is that knowledge is no longer in the hands of the few and allow people to see what students actually study behind the desks at universities. They don’t, however, see how learning is happening, how important deadlines are (one can fail the course if s/he doesn’t come to class or miss a few deadlines), how you benefit from talking/arguing with other people face to face with a smart facilitator (aka Professor).

I think MOOCs have to be free. We shouldn’t keep knowledge in secret from those people who wasn’t lucky enough to get into the university, because universities will hardly ever be replaced by MOOCs. In universities, it’s not only passing down the knowledge from a professor to a student in lectures, it’s the whole communication between people, networking, learning of skills, disciplining oneself every day, etc.


2 thoughts on “Should MOOCs be free?

  1. I agree with you that knowledge should be available to everyone, but I do not think online classes can be offered for free. If MOOCs were free, what would be the incentive to enroll as as a student at a college? An alternative is that people can subscribe to e-learning companies and watch videos for a low monthly cost. Also, who would be paying the professors that teach the online classes?

    I think your idea of online courses being shared by multiple universities as a way to make their schools more attractive is an interesting idea. I think you brought up a lot of great points and a lot to think about.


    • Thanks Rachel. I appreciate your response. And you are totally right: who will pay the professors? But I think that — because I believe universities won’t be replaced by MOOCs — universities can afford a few courses to be placed online and, thus, attract some students (or if not attract new students, then build a trust and respect with them). MOOCs are a great way to learn new things or perspectives, and this incentive alone can suffice to take an online class. Or not, it’s all speculation lol


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