Between my graduate course and my personal edtech readings, I have been spending a great deal of time contemplating my thoughts on the relatively recent phenomenon of Massive Open Online Courses, also known as MOOCs. For those who are not familiar with MOOCs, check out this wonderful infographic created by Online Learning Made Simple. Basically, MOOCs are free, online classes being offered by many major universities. A breakdown of the current data available about MOOCs is available in this article from EdSurge.
It is very easy to get caught up in either side of the MOOC debate. Some experts believe that MOOCs may eventually replace college degrees, as is presented in this article by Bloomburg Business. By lowering the cost and removing the financial barrier to educational courses, it is believed that a larger number of students will begin to turn to MOOCs for their educational credentials.
Other experts believe that the independent nature of the courses will not lend themselves to wide success. Learners are required to be autonomous and self-motivated to successfully navigate through a course of hundreds, sometime thousands of people. This article from The New Yorker, outlines the difficulty currently facing MOOCs and reports the current lack of verifiable success. Some have even argued that the format of MOOCs is contrary to the nature of teaching, as is outlined in this blog post by Guzdial.
One source that particularly resonated with my current sentiments toward MOOCs is the view presented on the EdSurge Podcast from March 14th, 2015. In particular, I agree that the value of MOOCs will not be realized until employers start recognizing the credentials from MOOCs similar to way they recognize a college degree or a certification. The relevant section of the podcast starts at 6:30 and runs mostly to the end.
As a whole, I don't believe we have the information we need to determine the ultimate fate of MOOCs at this time. Both arguments are currently plausible due to the highly volatile nature of education. The dynamics of the educational system are in an interesting state of flux, leaving infinitely many possibilities for the future. While the affordability of higher education will play a role, the future of MOOCs will ultimately hinge on makeup of MOOCs and of future learners. Will they be self motivated learners with a thirst for learning? Or in need of external motivation? Maybe a better question... will the future version of MOOCs be able to accommodate either kind of learner?
Mattea Garcia is a passionate educator dedicated to improving instruction by utilizing technology. This blog is dedicated to reflections on educational technology tools, instructional coaching, and educational equity.