A large percentage of the people that take Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCS) are not necessarily the intended audience, and people that should use them don’t always know about them. This article helps to inform a curious person about MOOCS. What are they? What are the advantages and disadvantages? Where’s the best place to take a course? And where is this innovation in education headed?
Are they still the future of education? Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCS) have been around for several years, but really sprung to life and got a lot of attention in 2012. Now they are entering a “where-do-we-go-next” period: reexamining their goals and target audience, developing more usable credentials for students, and trying to generate revenue. As the major players navigate these decisions and make changes to their platforms, one thing remains the same: MOOCS are an undeniably awesome idea.
What’re MOOCS Exactly?
For the uninitiated, MOOCS are free college-level courses accessible to anyone with a computer and an internet connection. The largest purveyors of the service include Coursera, Udacity, and EdX. All of them started with the common goal of making high-quality education available to a larger audience. Udacity has always been more targeted for computer science and technology courses, and has evolved to focus on workforce-ready skills taught by industry experts. Coursera and EdX both have a much broader range of courses from the technical to the humanities and are university-based.
Why They’re Awesome
There are two main reasons that any of these courses are so great:
- They are taught by the best and
- they are free!
Ivy League institutions and technology companies offer their choice courses to anyone in the world. There is a small charge for an enhanced experience or for ID-verified credentials, but there is no cost to view the lectures, do the assignments, take the quizzes and tests, and learn the material. How cool is that?
Some of Their Drawbacks
It’s hard to fault a free service for the things they fail to offer, but there are drawbacks that make MOOCS less useful for some people.
- In most cases you do not receive college credit for these courses.
- Interaction with the professor is also unlikely due to the size of the course, though in some courses the professors or their assistants do participate in forums.
- The courses have to be lecture-based, which is not best for everyone’s learning style.
- Some courses have to rely on peer feedback, which is not as reliable.
- Also, some new courses may have a faulty design while they work out the kinks.
MOOCS are not designed to replace a traditional education any time soon. They may enhance an education, teach specific targeted skills, or help a browsing student decide whether they want to pursue an area of study.
Where to Take a Course
So, if you’re all ready to learn, where do you start? That all depends. Coursera is touted as having the most courses and being the most user-friendly. The peer interaction is a very exciting element: you may find yourself in a study group with people from Mumbai and Sao Paulo. They also offer user-ID verified certificates at a reasonable rate.
Udacity is self-paced and targeted to specific skills, especially in the computer sciences. Also Udacity now offers an enhanced experienced where you can have your own coach and complete more personalized projects for a fee. EdX is very similar to Coursera in its advantages, but with more strength in the sciences, and possibly less user-friendliness. If you’re looking for specific knowledge, it really comes down to the individual course.
The Future of MOOCS
Recent changes help predict the future of MOOCS. It is likely that more companies based in different languages will come on the scene and the current ones may continue to hone their niches. These organizations may participate in more projects like the one in Rwanda where EdX teamed up with Facebook to provide mobile phones to students. Otherwise, the MOOCS may never reach those they are most intended for. In the end, MOOCS may not save the world as quickly as some would like, but they will make an impact on millions of us.