The newest buzzword in higher education is MOOC, which is an acronym for Massive Open Online Course. A MOOC is an online course designed for unlimited participation and open access via the internet.
Interested in math, then check out the “Getting a Grip on Mathematical Symbolism “at http://www.mooc-list.com/course/getting-grip-mathematical-symbolism-futurelearn This course, taught by the staff of Mathematics Education Centre in Loughborough University in East Midlands, England will last three weeks, and involves two hours of time a week. There is no cost to join this class, nor is there any exam.
On the other hand, perhaps your interest lies in Nanomanufacturing. In that case, you could sign up for http://www.mooc-list.com/course/nano-nanomanufacturing-stanford-online course offed by Stanford University, which will take you 3-4 hours a week for 5 weeks. If you wish, you may take a final exam and receive a certificate stating that you successfully completed this course. Cost to join and take this course – zero.
These are just a few examples of the courses offered by MOOC. To find a more complete list of available MOOC courses check out the MOOC Course List at http://www.mooc-list.com/ or http://www.openculture.com/ . From these sources, you can search or browse for upcoming MOOC courses and sign up for whatever is of interest to you.
The goal of MOOC is to expand knowledge usually available only to a few students enrolled at a specific university to thousands of people around the world and do it at not cost to the student. A staffer for Time Magazine, Harry McCracken, recently enrolled in an MOOC course offered through the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School. He reported that 76,000 people registered for the class, a six-week course on gamification (the practice of applying game like techniques to things that are not games). He reported that only 13,000 students turned in their first written assignment on time, but then there are no penalties for not doing homework in a MOOC. http://nation.time.com/2012/09/24/mooc-brigade-back-to-school-26-years-later/
Credit for coining the word MOOC, in 2008, is given to Dave Cormier, from the University of Prince Edward Island for a course offered by the University of Manitoba, “Connectivism and Connective Knowledge.” The Oxford online dictionary added MOOC in 2013.
While an MOOC may be patterned after a college or university course, they are less structured. The very number of students enrolled presents unique challenges in grading those courses that offer some credit or certification. While the courses are free, there may fees charge for taking a final exam and getting credit or certification, but that is not uniform.
In 2012 Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) joined to start the edX initiative for the promotion of MOOCs offered by these universities. Similarly, many elite universities are collaborating with Coursera, founded by Sanford University to offer MOOC courses. Coursera has over 7 million registered users worldwide. Google has developed an MOOC building online tool. Clearly, MOOC is attracting the attention of the biggest names in education and business.
While there are numerous issues facing MOOCs that need resolution, there are many positive signs for the future of MOOC. Whereas before MOOC a few hundred students a year might be able to take advantage of a particular class, now the number is in the tens of thousands from around the world. In a recent MOOC course on circuits and electronics taught by Dr. Anant Agarwal of MIT, 70 percent of the MOOC students had degrees. More impressive was that the majority of students (63 percent) who had completed a similar course in a traditional university setting found the MOOC course better; 36 percent found it comparable, and only 1 percent, worse.
The wide range of MOOCs is part of the attraction. You can take courses ranging from The Central Philosophy of Tibet to Modern Theoretical Physics: Quantum Mechanics. In each course, you will join with thousands of others who share your interest in the subject. MOOC classes encourage interaction between students and the potential for professional networking is a motivation cited by many MOOC students.
There are some downsides to MOOC’s. There is limited to no interaction with your instructor due to the large size of the class. There is no motivation to learn other than self-motivation and completion rates for MOOC classes are considerably lower than traditional on campus and online courses. Where there is an assessment of performance, the tools have yet to catch up with the size of the class. In courses where certificates are offered based on a final exam, cheating has become a problem.
A cornerstone of the MOOC model is that it is free to everyone, but the fact is that MOOCs cost money. There are direct costs to the universities simply in setting up and managing the MOOC courses, and figuring out how to manage those costs will be increasingly challenging as MOOC growth continues.
MOOC has changed and challenged the traditional concept of higher education. For something that was not even heard of seven years ago, the scope, and growth of MOOCs is staggering, and it will be fascinating to see what the next few years bring.