If you make your professional home in higher education, you probably have noticed an increasing surge in conversations around MOOCs, or —massive open online courses. The conversations around MOOCs argue that they will transform higher education for both the better and worse (depending upon who you ask). MOOCs offer free or low cost education to the masses. A big draw of MOOCs are the direct and indirect economic benefits of providing people around the world, (including people in the United States) access to some form of higher education. Anyone with an Internet connection can enroll and matriculate in a class that may have been designed by an expert in the field. Many MOOCs now take advantage of digital tools and media that tend to be associated with the way “digital natives” arguably learn. Some MOOCs allow you to earn college credit.
All MOOCs are not designed the same. Some move in a synchronous manner, where you have optional interactions with the teaching staff and students and turn in assignments at specific times. Others are designed for more independent learners, who need to work at their own pace based around their schedule. These differences are why some MOOC pioneers suggest there is such a thing as a “Good MOOC” and a “Bad MOOC”. George Siemens, a pioneer in the area of MOOCs explains that there is indeed theory that underpins MOOCs. Many of the top universities in the United States (including Purdue) offer some form of a MOOC. Currently, the most popular platforms are offered through Coursera, EdX, and Udacity. Through them, you can learn more about various subjects in a wide range of disciplines.
Proponents of MOOC argue that they offer affordable education to groups who are traditionally labeled as marginalized in educational settings, and may not have access to other means of higher education, while critic question the quality, standards, and “true costs” associated with MOOCs. Regardless of your stance on MOOCs, there is no question that the conversation around them has only just begun as we as educators explore changing education paradigms.