MOOC Mania: An example of a great idea stumbling

As I’m reading this article (MOOCs May Not Be So Disruptive After All – Technology – The Chronicle of Higher Education.) I am struck at how MOOCs started out as such a wonderful, interesting idea and have now become mired in nothing but the same old garbage prevailing in higher ed (and politics for that matter)

MOOCs for those that don’t know are an idea that lets a teacher, or teachers create a course and offer it online, but it is designed for hundreds of thousands of students. There are no requirements, and in most cases no grades. It is learning for learning’s sake.

Reading that I think it’s a fantastic idea. Come and learn what you want. You don’t need to finish, you don’t even need to stay in the course past what you need to. Instantly I am transported to imagining learning in some type of Roman forum. Walk over to someone speaking and just listen, or talk back a bit, then leave after learning.

MOOC courses sprouted up out of nowhere seemingly overnight and were highly touted as a revolution in education. Want to learn from a Harvard professor for one course, and one from Berkley? No problem.

However, almost immediately there was the backlash. Students who expected a traditional course experience with assessments and lots of feedback did not receive it and were disheartened. Administrators immediately began complaining that only 10% of people in MOOCs finish so they don’t work, and everyone (except for the companies that were offering the platforms for MOOCs) began to complain about how they can’t make any money about this.

Speaking to these companies we also have the interesting development that these educational businesses can now come in and offer direct access to course material essentially bringing about corporate education into the higher ed field. Higher Ed institutions complain that they are invading their space, corporations complain back they won’t allow accrediation.

It’s just a great example of a very cool idea getting ruined by all parties involved. Maybe I am naive, but I always think that schools are there to teach not make endless money, and if we can create an avenue to do so for free to millions of people that’s not a bad thing. Once money and corporate interests come into it it goes downhill.

It will be interesting to see how much of an impact the MOOC movement will ultimately have.


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