A Look at MOOCs and the Traditional Classroom

As I started to conduct research to find articles about how faculty in higher education are using or reacting to social media, MOOCs, or disruptive technologies, I could not find articles written within the past two years. Most articles were published around 2012 and as recent as 2016. I wonder if faculty are no longer having active discussions about digital pedagogy because many have accepted social media, MOOCs, and other technologies as ways to reimagine their pedagogical practices. Also, the articles I did find closely related to this topic, the faculty were situated in a country outside the United Studies working to implement social media or technologies. For example, “Utilization of social media platforms for educational purposes among the faculty of higher education with special reference to Tamil Nadu” by Vivakaran and Neelamalar (2018) is situated in India.

I read Elizabeth Losh’s “Introduction” in MOOCs and Their Afterlives: Experiments in Scale and Access in Higher Education (2017), and Losh states that the New York Times declared 2012 “the year of the MOOC,” which may explain why I noticed scholarship on this topic circa 2012. In this chapter, Losh elucidates the long-standing history of innovative education that often took the form of a mobile structure to make education accessible to those unable to attend the traditional classroom, as an act of social justice. Social media, MOOCs, and other technologies, in the same way, provide an alternative to the traditional classroom that makes certain knowledge-bases more accessible especially in the advent of mobile technologies. Some of the noted concerns regarding MOOCs is that they challenge the power dynamics between student and instructor as well as concepts of knowledge generation. Losh explains that MOOCs are in use by some to improve low retention rates by connecting traditional classroom elements with MOOC methods. Additionally, MOOCs facilitate inclusion for student participation in instances where students may otherwise be marginalized because of their identities in a traditional classroom. Lastly, this book is concerned with how copyrights are challenged when students are sharing work (like in a photography course) or instructors sharing course materials.

Prior to reading about MOOCs, I was familiar with Coursera because my mother heard about it and recommended that my niece consider taking available courses, but I did not know it was defined as a “MOOC.” I understand how faculty can consider social media, MOOCs, and other technologies as disruptive to the traditional classroom. But, now that we are moving further away from a traditional classroom, especially with how the COVID-19 pandemic has forced education to an online presence, I think it’s beneficial to incorporate concepts from digital pedagogy into our current pedagogical practices.


Losh, E. (Ed.). (2017). MOOCs and their afterlives: Experiments in scale and access in higher education. University of Chicago Press.

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