What are MOOCS?

MOOCs, or Massive Open Online Courses, have been getting a lot of attention in the world of higher education over the last couple of years.   Some companies have signed up partners, like Harvard and MIT, to design MOOCS and have gotten high quality faculty to teach them.  What are MOOCs and are they here to stay? 

MOOCs are Massive Open Online Courses.  They are college-level classes open to anyone with an Internet connection.  Typically, a MOOC has thousands or even tens of thousands of students in one class, and the students have no direct interaction with faculty members.  MOOCs give underserved student populations access to some of the best faculty and colleges in the world.  For example, EdX is a nonprofit created by Harvard and MIT.  EdX offers MOOCs in many areas, including, law, history, science, engineering, and business.  Public colleges and universities are also starting to run MOOCs. 

Some colleges and universities are granting academic credit for learning through MOOCs.  According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, more than a half-dozen institutions have said they will grant transfer credit to students who successfully complete MOOCs.  However, although some colleges are offering credit for MOOCs, most students are not taking advantage of the offer.  Colorado State University-Global Campus was the first college in the United States to grant credit to students who passed a MOOC.  However, after almost a year, university administrators did not have one student take advantage of the offer.

MOOCs rely on quizzes and tests that have a clearly defined right answer, to assess how students do in a course.  This is because grading thousands of papers and projects is just not possible.  To remedy this problem, EdX recently introduced an automated system to grade essays.  Also, some MOOCs use a peer review system to grade essays.  Each student is required to grade submissions from fellow students.

Until recently, many of the best colleges and universities have offered MOOCs for free.  However, these courses are not offered as degree programs but rather as stand- alone courses. That changed recently when Georgia Institute of Technology announced that it would offer a new MOOC master’s degree in computer science, beginning in 2014, for $6,600.  Compared with the $45,000 for out-of-state students or $21,000 for Georgia residents, the MOOC degree is a real bargain.  Georgia Tech believes it will make up the revenue difference because of the class size of MOOCs.

A recent Gallup survey of 889 college presidents found skepticism about MOOCs.  Only 3 percent of college presidents believe that MOOCs will improve the learning of all students.  Only 8 percent think that it will reduce the cost of education.

Also, many experts believe that the biggest problem with MOOC’s is that dropout rates are extremely high. Many MOOCs have dropout rates greater than 90 percent.  A good example is a MOOC that Duke University recently offered in bioelectricity.  Of 12,700 individuals who registered for the course, only 350 took the final exam.  This equates to a 97 percent dropout rate.  Nearly 5,000 individuals who registered for the course never even watched the first lecture.

The long-term forecast for MOOCs is not yet in.  They offer a chance to learn from some stellar professors at little or no cost, but they are not yet a way to earn an established degree.



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commented 2013-12-21 19:04:32 -0500 · Flag
Thank you