I have to be honest… when an HP colleague with tremendous knowledge and experience in higher education and teaching/learning mentioned the word ‘MOOC’ I did not know what he was talking about. So, humbly I asked. He said, what is revolutionzing higher education now. MOOC stands for Massive Open Online Courses, a form of distance education that is offered free of charge or at very low fees. These courses started only a couple of years ago (you may have heard about them through my blog posts or the media). MIT, Stanford, UC Berkeley, Harvard and Purdue courses are some universities offering MOOCs. More recently, a number of MOOC-type projects have emerged independently, such as Coursera (a for profit spinn-off from Stanford), Udacity (a private educational organization), edX (a not for profit spinn-off of MIT and Harvard). The prominence of these projects’ founders, contributing institutions, and financial investment helped MOOCs gain significant public attention in 2012.
So, what does this mean for higher education? To me, it means, for one, that higher education programmatic and business models have started to change (finally, after hundreds of years!). The most important stakeholder in higher education, the learner, wants a learner-centric education using technology. It also means that higher education will be serving more than a handful of students, finally enhancing its role in society by making it more accessible to thousands, millions, not to benefit themselves.
Yet, there are many unanswered questions regarding this new emerging model: How will students develop the skill (not the knowledge) necessary for the job they will undertake? How will these courses be accredited by the home institution? How will student learning be assessed? Can all courses be offered this way? Can whole degrees be completed with MOOCs? What will the role of faculty be? Universities? Experiential learning? How will research be done? How will industry value the new learning models and its outcomes?….
I don’t think MOOCs will go away, so stay tune for more developments and the answer to these issues!