The role of MOOCs in education

Kirsty Chadwick, founder and chairperson of the e-learning design and development company The Training Room Online

With the ever-increasing cost of attaining quality university education, many students are finding it near-impossible to study at university when they leave school, despite having all the necessary credentials.

We were recently introduced to MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) and the opportunity to obtain free education, without the necessary educational background that one would need to take a paid course through university. MOOCs make it possible for students to gain access to courses and lectures from some of the most prestigious universities in the world without spending a cent.

MOOCs are open non-degree online courses that engage learners through participation in the learning process and provide them with a lifelong learning network. These courses are free and easily accessible, as long as you have an internet connection and, in some cases, you are able to get accreditation for the course that you have completed by paying a small fee.

There has been a lot of controversy surrounding MOOCs and whether they will influence the educational landscape as we know it. This is something that only time will tell, but for now, they are certainly making an enormous impact on education, and the courses on offer will continue to improve as the demand and competition intensifies.

These online courses are available to anyone who wants to participate, regardless of their educational background. There is no correct way to complete the courses, they can be done in your own time and however you see fit , and then it’s up to you to decide whether you have been successful or not.

While MOOCs are fantastic for anyone who is interested in learning, there are also a number of concerns, one of them being the quality and accuracy of information received.

I recently read a very interesting analogy, which hit the nail right on the head. A student who successfully completed a MOOC stated that “comparing MOOCs with traditional classes is like comparing food from a fast food joint to that of a boutique hotel”. Boutique hotels and fast food restaurants both continue to survive because people have different needs, and both eateries cater to the needs of their patrons. In the same way, there are students who will excel through MOOCs, while others will function better in a structured environment, like a university. While the concerns being raised do have merit, there are also many positive attributes of MOOCs, like the fact that they are completely free and they provide students with an opportunity to learn, irrespective of budgetary constraints.

It’s unclear what role MOOCs will play within education going forward, but the appeal of this type of learning has proven to be high, particularly among the older generations who would like to learn but don’t necessarily have the time to sit in a classroom or lecture hall. The high dropout rates are also likely to decrease dramatically once accreditation is available on all courses, even if it comes at a fee.

MOOCs are still in their infancy stage, but once we get them 100% right, there is no telling how far they will take us. 

* Kirsty Chadwick is the founder and chairperson of the e-learning design and development company The Training Room Online.


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