MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) need no introduction for people who inhabit the education universe. They have captured a lot of attention in a short span of time and have even been labeled as the next big threat for universities and traditional education models.
They can easily be painted to be a nightmare for teachers and CTET aspirants because if there are no classrooms thanks to these digital rooms, then who would need a teacher?
Not really. MOOCs should be assessed in the right context and based on one’s own country, professional cadre, digital literacy, audience target, and skills.
But before that, it would help to consider some latest trends in this space.
According to some estimates, 2015 saw about 4,200 MOOCs that comprised courses offered by over 500 universities. The year 2015 witnessed student enrolments in this format growing from 16-18 million to 35 million in 2015.
International orientation dominates the MOOCs space with top players aiming for international markets and languages like Spanish and French ruled strong as languages-of-instruction.
MOOCs are also turning into a new model in terms of revenue-angles. Monetisation approaches range from paid credentials, University-collaboration for credits from the University and courses for credit to virtual subscriptions.
One on hand, proponents and players in this space have praised the scale, speed, affordability, customisation and opening up of education as major outcomes of these courses. On the other hand, some critics continue to point out their fragmentation issues coupled with poor impact on quality, consistency, learning experiences, application in the real world and engagement levels for certain target learners as well as their potential for displacing real educators.
So, if you are a teacher, or aspire to be one, should you be going on either of the extremes? Should you embrace or discard MOOCs immediately without due thought and diligence?
There is so much more that connects MOOCs and education professionals. Here’s what you can think about before jumping on either of the two opinions?
Like hinted earlier, Universities are partnering with MOOCs to touch a wider segment hitherto inaccessible because of geography or affordability issues. Example: Arizona State University or University of Illinois or Georgia Institute of Technology. The trend is going to get stronger as major names like MIT, Harvard etc., are increasingly experimenting with online/digital formats or introductory modules of their own. That translates into new opportunities for high-league education professionals as well because they can participate in this new wave but with a University context.
Many MOOC players insist on calling themselves as alternatives to not going to University, instead of alternatives to going to University. So they would not be direct substitutes for traditional courses and teachers in an outright manner. They are aiming for a different segment of learners and based on where your skills or interests stand, you can tap whichever segment makes more sense to you.
Have you wondered why some MOOCs report high dropout rates and only draw already well-educated learners? It is because the digital or technology element is only helping as a delivery vehicle and addressing the scale or ‘massive’ side of MOOCs. Nothing can replace the education or learning element. That’s where good teachers would always be needed.
MOOCs can complement well in satisfying the ever-growing demand for higher education, especially in developing countries. Education spreads like a snowball and increases its own momentum as it moves wider.
Not all courses gain instantly from an MOOC model. Studies have pointed that technical and business courses find more usage than a course in humanities and social science. Open Universities and Distance Learning are not exactly new concepts. From many decades, many institutes and Governments have pushed for this approach and there are professionals who can specifically deliver to these unique education roles.
MOOC technology expands the number of students that one teacher or professor can handle at one point of time. This completely shifts the reach and economics of higher education, if leveraged well for both the teacher and the learner.
The pie gets bigger. Not only small MOOCs attract students for higher-level drill-downs on courses they take but new segments like life-long learners or professionals looking to re-skill enter the circle and expand it. MOOCs can also help as viable, scalable business models if a University is facing reduced public funding.
Teachers can tap into MOOCs for their interactive and feedback mechanisms and grow, as adaptability improves. You may lack experience when it comes to online teaching and learning like many other professors. Or you may be the opposite. Either way, you are not in a threat zone if you choose your dimension correctly.
MOOCs can be a good showcase forum for better visibility for students and outsiders and can help to advertise what the Institute or teacher can offer.
At the end of the day, even the best and hottest MOOC would have to be designed and put together by a professor, so the future of formal education cannot be shaken by such courses so soon and not always, in a negative sense.
It depends on how you play your strong cards.