An individual can get an education through different modes in today’s world which may be formal in nature in which education is imparted at a particular place under controlled a environment like time tables, observation of strict discipline and so on or a non-formal mode in which education is imparted to learners according to time table suitable to them and certificates may be issued at the end of education.
Open mode of education and MOOCs are non-formal modes of education that does not operate through traditional conventions which are essentially restrictive nature having admission restrictions, attendance restrictions, restrictions on the candidature for examinations, restrictions on the period of time to be devoted to a course, restrictions on the number of examinations given and taken in a year, restrictions on subject combinations for a particular degree, restrictions on the modes of didactic communication and the didactic tasks, and so on.
In this essay, we will examine how MOOCs have been able to change the face of education within few years of their existence. The term MOOC stands for Massive Open Online Course. A MOOC is an online course aimed at unlimited participation and open access via the web. Massive refers to giving opportunity for connections among geographically dispersed participants(students), Open doesn’t mean just free but refers to open access, open syllabi and self-directed learning outcomes, Online points to making materials available on internet in abundance, and Course referring to structure of the online course.
MOOCs are classes that are taught online to a large numbers of students, with minimal involvement by professors. Typically, students watch short video lectures and complete assignments that are graded either by machines or by other students. This way, a lone professor can support a class with hundreds and thousands of participants. A key characteristic of a MOOC is flexibility so that students can choose their level of participation without fees and any prerequisites other than internet access and interest, no predefined expectations for participation including no formal accreditation. The term MOOC was coined in 2008 by Dave Cormier of the University of Prince Edward Island. The first MOOC was a course on “Connectivism and Connective Knowledge(CCK08)” in 2008 created by educators George Siemens and Stephen Downes. It was designed for group of 25 enrolled fee paying students to study for credit. The first MOOC was introduced in 2008 and emerged as a popular mode of learning in 2012.
Types of MOOCs:
– As MOOCs have evolved, there appear to be two distinct types: those that emphasize the connectivist philosophy, and those that resemble more traditional courses. To distinguish the two, Stephen Downes proposed the terms “cMOOC” and “xMOOC”.
– cMOOCs: c stands for connectivist and is based on principles from connectivist pedagogy indicating that material should be aggregated (rather than pre-selected), remixable, re-purposable, and feeding forward (i.e. evolving materials should be targeted at future learning).cMOOC instructional design approaches attempt to connect learners to each other to answer questions and/or collaborate on joint projects;
– xMOOC: x stands for extended and is based on more behaviourist approach. Itis the type of the learning where by the learners share the ideas and there is only one instructor on the discussion.it emphasizes on coordinated assessments and quizzes.
Major Players offering MOOC
Some of the major players currently offering (either profit or non-profit) MOOC courses are:
1. edX: A non-profit effort run jointly by MIT, Harvard, and Berkeley.
2. Coursera: A for-profit company founded by two computer-science professors from Stanford.
3. Udacity: Another for-profit company founded by a Stanford computer-science professor.
4. Khan Academy: A non-profit organization founded by the MIT and Harvard graduate Salman Khan.
5. Udemy: A for-profit platform that lets anyone set up a course.
Apart from the above , SWAYAM in India is also offering several academic as well as industry demanded skill courses.
Challenges and Criticism : The MOOC Guide suggests five possible challenges for cMOOCs:
1. Relying on user-generated content can create a chaotic learning environment
2. Digital literacy is necessary to make use of the online materials
3. The time and effort required from participants may exceed what students are willing to commit to a free online course
4. Once the course is released, content will be reshaped and reinterpreted by the massive student body, making the course trajectory difficult for instructors to control
5. Participants must self-regulate and set their own goals
Criticism : The San Jose State University philosophy faculty wrote in an open letter to Harvard University professor and MOOC teacher Michael Sandel: “Should one-size-fits-all vendor-designed blended courses become the norm, we fear two classes of universities will be created: one, well-funded colleges and universities in which privileged students get their own real professor; the other, financially stressed private and public universities in which students watch a bunch of video-taped lectures”.
The Future of Education
MOOCs have been most hotly debated topics in education circles over a decade now with extremely polarizing opinions. Despite that the true value of MOOCs lies in their capacity to open up access to knowledge that previously was the preserve of a small elite. It offers an incredible and unique opportunity which otherwise would not have existed with formal modes of education. MOOCs are future of education particularly at tertiary level.
The idea behind MOOC is that the internet is used to bring education accessible to as many people as possible with open access being the cornerstone of its philosophy. It has expanded access especially to global students desirous of accessing international learning opportunities without leaving their home country. However the real conundrum which it is facing is balancing accreditation and credibility. Despite the challenges involved, online courses have demonstrated that they offer valuable educational opportunities to millions of students across the globe and will only continue to evolve with passage of time.