Massive Online Open Courses – Changing the face of online education

The Massive Online Open Courses – MOOCs have made a spectacular entry into the world of education. Well known platforms such as Coursera and Udacity are reshaping the outlook of online education. Offering a multitude of courses and in some cases in more than one language, the content is coming from global partners, US state institutions and other key educational players. The numbers suggest that this is a successful experiment[1], with more than 4.0 million students enrolled in Online open courses as of 2013. The type of subjects is diverse and the outlook of the student population is varied, ranging from high school graduates to accomplished professionals.

Their popularity and their extensive reach have made them an interesting field for traditional education providers as well. Harvard and MIT are behind the edX platform which offers 157 courses and attracted over 1.6 million students[2]. Sooner or later other institutions could join the process, forming their own platforms, especially when their content bears a strong brand image, or offer courses via collaborative media.

There are serious benefits to this mode of online education. People from all over the world now have access to elite institutions content, get valuable insights in their respective fields and for those that exhibit the patience, commitment and dedication to complete the course, a title of credential is conferred, even though it is not a formal degree or a graduate certificate. In the future, this could be subject to change as well.

The process is also informative and helpful for tutors. The feedback and insights gathered by the thousands of students that join the class from all over the world, offer a unique opportunity to conduct classes in totally new and innovative ways. Projects, research ideas or even evaluations are becoming more flexible, more collaborative and more diverse. For example, the online forum of every class offers collaborative help and assistance to participating students, enabling the flow of ideas from different points of origin and a variety of perspectives on issues of common interest.

However, there are still issues concerning the way MOOCs are operating. Success rates are low, with 40% of course takers failing the tests at the end of it. Only a small percentage of those that enrol for the first time complete the course to its entirety. Total completion rates hover at about 15%, affecting platforms’ growth. Open source content is also a key variable in the way MOOCs are built, but providers are contemplating ways to make their services more profitable.

The field is open and ripe for many more changes in the setup and delivery of MOOCs. Surely the debate is far from being settled on their future, the potential impact and the shape online education will take in the next few years. We can certainly though assert that one way or other MOOCs are here to stay and it will sure be worth monitoring their progress in the years to come.

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