MOOCs and Higher Education

MOOCs, also known as massive online courses, has been employed for a very long time with booming courses (from 0 in Oct. 2011 to over 4000 in Feb. 2016) and participated students. Among which, Coursera is the most famous one with numerous courses covering from science, engineering, business, management, arts, design, math, etc. Indeed, it provides a great platform for all students, especially those part-time and continuing students, to have access to high-quality modules offered in elite universities. As of now, MOOCs has been embraced by top U.S. universities. The MOOCs also provides college students an alternative choice to choose classes outside their own university. For example, in the State University of New York (SUNY), up to one-third of the credits towards the final degree can be earned from Coursera. John Mitchell, vice provost for online learning at Stanford University, confirms that the university provides funding for the professors convert traditional lectures to online courses. Possible funding are for equipment and editing costs.
微信截图_20161106224140.pngHowever, there are lots of concerns towards this novel way of learning. Not everyone is convinced that the development of Higher Education should rely on MOOCs. According to an article written by Derek Newton, a University of Pennsylvania study of 1 million MOOC users who participated in 16 of the school’s Coursera classes found that only about half of the participants viewed a single online lecture. The average completion rate was even lower, just 4 percent. Without the supervision of real lecturers and participation in live discussion, students do not seems to have enough motivation to complete the one course. Hence, 58 faculty members in Harvard University to their dean with concerns about how quickly the school has been pursuing MOOCs, as 16 courses were offered online at that time. They all believe a thorough faculty meeting about the MOOCs together with a deep discussion on monitoring the ethical implications of MOOCs should be performed immediately (original article written by Sean McMinn). As a result, Harvard University considered to use the whole summer for possible improvements.


To more effectively assess the MOOCs, several schools are adopting a methodical approach for evaluation. Stanford University is even paying graduate students to help evaluate MOOC’s effectiveness. One potential challenge for MOOC development is how to effectively convert the class content into vivid online courses. Professors sometimes can find it difficult to deliver valuable information without blackboard, facial expression, gesture, or even the tone. To address this issue, some universities try to develop plans, such as online-learning committee, to help bridge MOOCs with campus faculties.  For example, Columbia University appointed a longtime journalism professor Sree Sreenivasan as its first chief digital officer to lead the MOOC movement. As in my point of view, I always believe that MOOCs can certainly serve as a promising alternative to our conventional classroom. If operated and handled well, the students can easily have access to tons of fundamental as well as first-hand knowledge. However, the regulation and evaluation system should keep up with MOOCs development to provide enough motivation for completion each course.

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