Massive Online Open Courses or MOOCs have gained quite a bit of popularity in the last five years. The word ‘massive’ is to be understood in the sense that 100,000 learners or more at the same time have open and equal opportunities to attend these courses. MOOCs are truly a tremendous technological leap, and what makes them so attractive is that they don’t imply any cost to learners.
Read below to find out more about MOOCs as you’ll find the answer to these questions:
- What are MOOCs and how did they emerge?
- What are the costs of MOOCs?
- Why do universities support MOOC?
- Are MOOCs considered a real education?
- Do MOOCs offer any certificate after completion?
- Do MOOCs require assignments or exams?
- Why are MOOCs so popular?
1. What is MOOCs and how did they emerge?
A Massive Online Open Course falls under the category of distance education, in the tradition of education by correspondence and other forms of learning at a distance. In an MOOC, there are many forms of ‘distance’ that can be accounted for through computing technology. Learners can be distant from their instructors and still attend a course. A wide array of students from around the world are taking classes ‘together’. These students are the most technologically advanced international real-time peers in history!
In some MOOCs, students can sign on to a webcast with 50,000 other students and participate in live instruction with a real professor. In other MOOCs, the enrollment may be 1,000 students following weekly learning modules with materials provided by the MOOC creators. While numbers vary, the access potential for MOOCs makes it a prime tool for bridging some of the educational and digital divides that exist in and between countries around the world.
2. Can I take MOOCs for credit? What will it cost me?
Most MOOCs are cost-free for students. However, it depends on the provider, as some may charge for things like course completion certificates or exams. In addition, the materials associated with an MOOC, may come with some costs, although most of them are provided in the online format at no cost.
Schools like the University of Maryland University College were among the first that provided and accepted massive online open courses for credit. Now, many schools are considering the implications of offering MOOCs for credit.
Starting from 2014, more institutions opened their virtual doors to students giving them access to various academic fields--for free!
3. Why would a university support MOOC?
A free course for credit at a university can act as a great introduction to the school and encourage students toward full-time enrollment. On the other hand, MOOCs may also suggest a major loss of income for colleges and universities, and some suggest they have implications for the future of the current forms of higher education.
Are MOOCs an evolutionary turning point in higher education? This question is currently up for debate in the academic world. The most common thought is that they will become more and more popular and will change the format of higher education as we know it today.
For the University of Maryland University College, this wave of MOOC offerings are part of a study to understand how MOOCs can prepare non-traditional adult students for a traditional college/university experience.
4. What is the point of taking MOOCS? Are they considered real education?
The importance of MOOCs in education, and especially in higher education, is currently a hot topic. For some students and educators, MOOCs present challenges in terms of quality, consistency, and delivery of courses and programmes.
The question in itself raises other questions like: Are students moving toward a common goal? Are there quality educators present to guide students through the materials? How do we measure the academic rigour of these courses?
Educators are challenging the quality of learning that MOOCs can provide and the competencies and skills that students can gain. Educators and learners are asking ‘if everything that can be learned online can be considered “online learning”? For learners looking for MOOCs to boost their knowledge in many different areas, MOOCs are indeed a learning tool, and are a part of online learning.
MOOCs can bring knowledge to students who may have not have access otherwise, and be of use to learners who can’t afford the costs of higher education. Non-traditional education realised through a MOOCs is a useful form of online learning and can complement the traditional university learning.
5. Will I receive any certificate after completing an MOOC?
In most cases, students will not automatically receive a certificate for completing an MOOC due to the fact that currently, none of the MOOC providers offers free certificates.
However, if you pay a fee (usually a small one), MOOC providers offer paid certificates once you complete an MOOC. Usually, students will have to provide a proof they actually attended the online course and each MOOC provider has a different system regarding these paid certificates.
Carefully read the individual information about any certificates available, and the costs involved, for any MOOC(s) you are thinking of enrolling in.
6. Will there be assignments or exams that have to be taken during an MOOC?Most MOOCs don’t require students to sit to any exam, they just include a range of learning activities designed to assist students to build their skills and knowledge and students will have to demonstrate they acquired those skills.
Suggestions of small assignments may occur in between classes but most times, these are not mandatory. Assignments are simply meant to help students build their abilities and competences and to have a better understanding of the material that was taught.
7. Why have MOOCs become so popular?
As a global society, getting an education has become increasingly important, but increasingly difficult beyond the high school level. Institutions of higher education present the obstacles of entrance examinations, tuition, distance, living expenses, and so much more. All over the world, there are universities that are opening their virtual doors to students in the form of MOOCs.
Ivy league institutions like Harvard in Boston, Massachusetts are offering MOOCs that range from education to bioengineering. In addition to top-tier schools offering free courses, companies such as Apple offer free courses creation tools for educators through iTunesU.
These are two examples of how learners and educators can take advantage of or create an MOOC learning experience. Many more tools like these are available through platforms such as Coursera, Edx, Udacity, and Udemy. This is just a short list. Many other companies and universities are creating open online learning structures for any student interested in learning.
Online Learning - Your Way!
There are still many questions and many debates about what MOOCs do and what they can provide for learners. The most important goal to consider when you are considering participation in an online learning experience through an MOOC is what you as the learner want to gain from the experience.
What are your goals? Are you priming yourself for a college education? Do you need to learn statistics quickly for your professional goals? Do you need a refresher course in biology? Do you desire to take many courses, but necessarily for college purposes?
If you have asked yourself one of these questions and whatever your aim for participating in an MOOC, make sure you set your goals and find a method of learning that works well for you. MOOCs are one of many great learning sources and a great way to add more tools to your knowledge arsenal. Do your research and try an MOOC that works for you!