MOOCs: Learning in a Networked World

Over the last eight weeks, I think I have read more articles and papers on MOOCs, than any other subject!  Luckily, I don’t mind this very much because all of the topics regarding MOOCs and the controversies they cause, are extremely interesting.

What is a MOOC you ask?  “A massive open online course (MOOC) is one way of learning in a networked world.  A MOOC is not a school, and not just an online course.  It is open, participatory, distributed, engaging, and supports lifelong networked learning.”  (source)

In short, a MOOC is an online course aimed at unlimited participation and open access via the web.  In addition to traditional course materials such as videos, readings, and problem sets, MOOCs provide interactive user forums that help build a community for students, professors, and teaching assistants.  MOOCs are a recent development in distance education which began to emerge in 2012.  (source)

Online CoursePersonally, I happen to be in favor of MOOCs and everything they have to offer.  Someone wants to give me a free course from a professor at Harvard that I can take in my pajamas at home??  Yes please!

MOOC Guide gives these 12 benefits of a MOOC:

  1. Appropriate for any setting that has internet connectivity  (coffee shop, home, library, home, work, home, grandma’s, home)
  2. Any language or multiple languages
  3. Any online tools
  4. Escape time zones and physical boundaries  (ah hem…pajamas…at home)
  5. Produce and deliver in short time frame
  6. Contextualized content can be shared by all
  7. Informal setting
  8. Peer-to-peer contact can trigger serendipitous learning
  9. Easier to cross disciplines and institutional barriers
  10. Lower barriers to student entry  (ah hem again…FREE)
  11. Enhance personal learning environment and/or network by participating
  12. Improve lifelong learning skills  (my favorite one!)

Despite all of the obvious benefits of participating in a MOOC, I can still see the negative aspects as well.  One issue that stays in my mind is, which data analyst would I want to hire for my company…the one with UT Arlington’s “Data, Analysis, and Learning” MOOC on his resume or the guy with the actual degree in it?

My favorite piece of reading on MOOCs is Andrew Spinner’s article, “Analyzing MOOCs – A SWOT Analysis.”  The SWOT analysis breaks things down into terms I can understand and I like seeing all points of view on the subject in a quick article.  I highly recommend clicking over there and giving it a read.

For very new beginners to the topic, click on the video below to watch Dave Cormier’s brief intro to MOOCs.

Lastly, Coursera, edX, Udacity, and Udemy are the top MOOC providers, but check out this great roundup article, “Top 10 Sites for Free Education with Elite Universities” as well!

Chalkboard image from here.