MOOCs are here to stay. And depending on your perspective, that is either really exciting or really scary.
MOOCs, or massive open online courses, have become hugely popular in the past year. If the term is new to you, MOOCs expand the classroom via the Internet, opening courses to students all over the world. Models vary, but most professors who participate in MOOCs either stream their classes or record them with webcams and then make the videos available to students.
Several startups, most notably Coursera, Udacity and edX, have jumped at the opportunity to deliver learning content this way and are growing quickly. Coursera, for example, reached 1 million users faster than both Twitter and Facebook.
Why is it exciting?
The democratization of higher education means opportunity for more students. That alone is justification for the disruption of higher education. College is extremely expensive, and for several years there has been speculation that the higher education bubble is on the verge of bursting. MOOCs may help stem the tide of student loan debt and allow distance learners to earn certifications or degrees while still being able to work. Additionally, the informal setting provides an alternative to the more traditional lecturing model. Many prominent colleges, such as Harvard, MIT, Princeton, Stanford, Georgetown, Brown and Columbia already offer MOOCs or have partnered with organizations that deliver the courses.
Why is it scary?
We toss the term disruption around quite a bit when discussing technology, but MOOCs really are poised to disrupt higher education. As the Huffington Post recently noted in Higher Tech Meets Higher Ed, “Silicon Valley thrives on disruption; academia thrives on tradition. That's a recipe for tension.”
Although it hasn’t changed much over the last millennium, the model for higher education has been extremely successful. While most people would agree that making education more accessible to the general public is a good idea, dissenters suggest that online education creates more problems than it solves. On a macro level, why would anyone pay for education when it’s free online? On a micro level, should credits be given for completed courses? Who, if anyone, grades the students? What value do certifications earned through MOOCs have in the job market? The questions are endless, but so are the opportunities.
The infographic below outlines the benefits and challenges of MOOCs. What do you think about the rise of MOOCs? Let us know in the Comments section.