Online Ed: Teaching Millions or Making Millions?

MOOC, or a massive open online course, aims at unlimited participation and open access via the web. According to The New York Times, 2012 became “the year of the MOOC” because several well-financed providers such as Coursera, Udacity, and edX, which are in association with some elite universities such as Stanford and MIT, have emerged.

In the midst of applause and advocation of MOOC, a national faculty coalition– CFHE (the link takes you to its homepage), or the Campaign for the Future of higher Education — stands out and continues its anti-MOOC offensive. According to this article and the animation following it (attached in the end here), the coalition has several problems with MOOC:

  1. How does MOOC reach people without the internet?
  2. MOOC is currently a failure because 90% of the register students failed to complete. Research also shows that online students don’t learn as much as students sitting in a classroom.
  3. Is the “education for everyone” future just a sales page for MOOC? These anti-MOOC faculty believe that this is “too good to be true”, just like the financial housing loan that promises everyone a house a few years ago. Currently there are more than $65 million investigated in Coursera alone and around $1 billion invested in education technology. Venture Capitals come into play not because they care about education, but because they want more money back. Therefore, is MOOC’s purpose really “Teaching Millions” or just “Making Millions”?

Following the article are many thoughtful comments. People are arguing on this subject continuously. The pros say that MOOC at least offer those who cannot afford higher education an opportunity. The cons then argue that the quality of this kind of education cannot be guaranteed, etc.

I personally agree that MOOC does provide another option for higher education, but it is not mature enough for the society to recognize its quality. It is also a tool for businessmen to make money. However, if it proves to be indeed beneficial to education and the society, the fact that someone is profiting from it could not be a bad thing. To put it bluntly, the current higher education is totally non-profiting at all? No. But then again, it is always good to have some anti voices, to help shaping this subject into a better process.

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