More on MOOCs: A Hot Topic in Education

guy studying with computer For years colleges and universities have offered different models of distance education from the correspondence course to lectures delivered by video or cable tv.  A new trend is education is the Massive Open Online Classes, known as MOOCs. The “New York Times” named 2012 the year of the MOOC as these large open classes began to have significant impacts on education. Outside of the college and tech crowds, I find a lot of people still have questions about MOOCs, how to participate, and how MOOCs work in the college process. Here are answers to common questions.

Which Schools Offer Classes?

Colleges and universities continue to add online offerings, so the list of schools offering MOOCs is ever changing.  Some of the more prestigious forerunners in this type of course delivery include MIT, Stanford, Duke, UCLA, Harvard, Carnegie Mellon, Yale, and Rice. Looking for a particular class?  Google the name of the institution + MOOC or “open online course.”

What Is the Role of the Student?

Unlike older programs that offered lectured on tape or cable tv, MOOCs seek to incorporate student participation.  Class may include traditional lectures, reading, and questions, but student participation is encourages through crowd sourcing and online forums.  Don’t worry.  Most online systems won’t show you sitting behind your computer in your pajamas!

How Big Is Massive?

For years online programs were limited in size due to technological constraints. Recent developments in course management programs have allowed universities to open classes to students from all over the world.  Recent classes offered by major universities have had enrollments of over 100,000 students. An interesting fact: completion rates for MOOCs is very low.  After registering, some students fail to watch even one lecture.  More students never attempt an online quiz or complete the homework.  Fewer yet complete the lectures, assignments, and the final exam.  It is estimated that between one and nine percent of registered participants successfully complete their online course.

Open:  Can Anyone Register?

Many universities have viewed these Massive Open Online Courses as an opportunity to open higher learning to anyone with access to the Internet. This means classes are open to students who have not graduated from high school yet or students who attend other universities or community colleges.  Anyone can register. Most courses are offered at no charge and participants do not need to apply for admission to the university or an online program in order to take the class.  Anyone with the interest in a topic and technology needed to participate can register.

How Can Participants Access Classes Online?

The short answer– use the Internet.  Different classes are run through different online systems, but as a student you will login using a computer, tablet, or other Internet capable device. This is part of the popularity of MOOCs.  Students from across the globe can have access to top professors and programs as long as they can access the Internet. Most students I know have smart phones, home computers, or tablets that allow them access to online information– everything needed to take a MOOC.

What Is the Cost?

Most programs are free.  Students register and participate at no cost.  Some institutions charge a nominal fee for registration or to provide a certificate of completion, but these fees are low, especially when compared to the tuition charged for a comparable college class.

Can Participants Earn College Credits?

Not usually. Currently MOOCs are intended to allow students from anywhere around the world to access ideas and information from professors at leading institutions, but these courses are for personal enrichment.  Students can earn a certificate of completion, but generally do not earn college credits. Some universities are experimenting with offering courses for credit, but students will have to apply to the programs and pay for the courses. Technology is changing the way information is accessed and the proliferation of Massive Open Online Courses represents a new trend in education.  While these courses will not replace more traditional college classes, they do allow everyone the opportunity to learn about new topics from some of the world’s most recognized college professors. To learn how high school and college students can use MOOCs to get ahead see here.  ]]>

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