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MOOC: A Breakdown of Massive Open Online Courses

Posted by Addi Rogers on Sep 16, 2014 9:28:00 AM


So I’ve been hearing lots about MOOCs...what exactly are these?

In case you were confused like I was at first, a MOOC has nothing to do with cows (unless, of course, you are taking a farm-ology course). MOOC stands for Massive Open Online Course, and these classes live up to every word of their title. By massive, we’re not talking your typical 300-student auditorium class. Think big, now think even bigger. Classes have reached sizes of 100,000 students and larger, depending on the content and the quality of teacher. Another reason for the huge class sizes may be the price tag, or lack thereof, associated with these courses. “Open” means that it is available free of charge to anyone with an internet connection. So you know those miserable college education expenses? Yah, nonexistent for those taking MOOCs.

Okay, this sounds pretty cool. Why do people take these courses?

Say you’re a student who can’t afford college classes, a person who lives far away from a higher education institution, or a working parent who simply doesn’t have time to take a course during the times it is offered. MOOCs are a great option for those who can’t, for one reason or another, attend courses at a university. They work to guarantee equal learning opportunities to those who are limited by personal circumstances.

If MOOCs are free, how do they make money?

Ah, now there’s the catch to all of this. We’ll let you know once the people managing MOOCs figure that one out. Despite tons of investment by prestigious U.S. universities and venture capitalists, the heads of the websites offering these free courses can’t quite figure out how to repay their investors. Some ideas they are considering are having students pay extra for certification or educational tools, such as library resources or tutoring sessions.

Do they actually work?

In its current form, not really. Personally, I wouldn’t treat a MOOC course like a full class, but more as a resource, unless class credit or a certificate was guaranteed. And it seems like a lot of people agree. For most classes, less than 13% of students complete the MOOC course for which they signed up. MOOCs were pitched and perceived as the next huge thing in education. I mean, 2012 was even dubbed “the year of the MOOC.” And yet, there hasn’t been much about them in the past year.  Although MOOCs are still readily available online, their “inevitable” success hasn’t quite made an appearance.

What would it take to make them successful:

Despite what people are saying, receiving certification or actual credit makes a difference when you can use it to complement your resume. The point of MOOCs is to level the higher education playing field so that those without the resources can have access to quality education. While it does achieve this, these MOOCs probably won’t help a person get a job or a promotion unless there is hard evidence that they are qualified. This is where universities could take advantage of the situation, as a few have. If a college partnered with these MOOCs to offer certification for the courses, the completion rates would probably be much higher. To make MOOCs successful, there’s got to be an incentive. I believe this has got to be real credit or certification that one can show to employers to make themselves more desirable as a potential employee.

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