Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs): Advantages and Disadvantages

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In the age of online learning, MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) have become a preferred way of interactive online learning. Students across the globe are now venturing into online courses to complete higher studies from reputed universities or colleges. MOOC participants can join the classes from any part of the world having connected to the web.  The idea of this online learning was coined in 2008 during a course called “Connectivism and Connective Knowledge”. In the first session, there were a  total of 2300 students and the course was quite successful.

The content of this course is available through RSS Feed, and students are given a choice of tools to learn like – threaded discussions in Moodle, Second Life, synchronous online meetings, and blog posts. With the launch of MOOC, there has been a quite positive change in education like – visual way of learning courses and collaboration between students. The best thing about this visual way of learning is the sign up which is free and students don’t need to get enrolled at any institution offering MOOC.

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How MOOC is expanding:

Though this online learning technology is new, it has not yet captured the entire online education sector. Generally, software industry professionals and from the tech industry are those who enroll for MOOC.  The numbers are increasing in recent times and continue to spread across all institutes offering online learning courses. With the present scenario of online courses, MOOCs are increasing in popularity.

MOOCs also attract students who have completed traditional post secondary education and are seeking higher education in their respective fields. According to the survey released by Coursera Institute in US, most of the students taking up this learning are from other countries. These include – Brazil, Canada, UK and Russia. Basically, international students are having a strong foothold over this learning source.

This certainly shows that internationally, MOOCs is gaining more popularity, especially in India and China. With MOOCs, the traditional educational institutions are facing a great challenge and in near future would have to strive hard to compete with online. The main reason is the extensive cost of a full time course, compared to online learning. Moreover, it can be adapted easily. Most of the MBA colleges both overseas are now taking up this section to provide courses to students from other countries.

Presently, there are 3 prominent players offering MOOCs. They are Udacity, Coursera and edX. These players are doing their best to keep the momentum going on for a long period.

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Institutes that used to offer courses through traditional forms of education are now adding MOOCs technique to their teaching format because it helps the institute in earning benefits, some of which are mentioned below:

  • Proper Engagement: MOOCs encourage both staff and student to engage with each other. Students can argue on the philosophy of the course through visual speaking method. In educational terms, this is a better way to learn about the course and have a good learning experience.
  • Alumni can Stay Connected: Even after completing the course, alumni can still stay with the institution be it by teaching a new batch, or by working in the backend process. Those who complete MOOCs may return to the new batch to facilitate the course or migrate to active learners.
  • Reaching Wider Audience: The best thing about offering MOOCs is it reaches a wider audience, especially those which is out of reach. For those who can’t take up a full time course can go for these online courses.
  • Media Coverage: MOOCs till date haven’t been presented in a way it should have been by the media. If your institution is offering this online teaching method, then getting a good coverage is important, especially from international media.
  • Higher Education getting more advanced: The best thing about MOOCs is; it has given a new dimension to higher education. Courses that fall under this online learning are offered by some of the best institute with good online facilities and teaching faculty.

However, with benefits, challenges do come that make it more difficult for MOOCs to reach their target audience.  But it depends on institutes as to how they overcome these challenges and make it prominent.

  • No Established Courses: The major hurdle which is faced is the standardized and proper structure of the course. Generally, MOOCs don’t have proper set of learning objectives that can go well with  all participants. With having lack of proper assessment and variety of learning objectives making it difficult to learn.
  • Very Few Completing the Course: Presently, there are thousands of students who take up MOOCs course through overseas universities, but there are only few who could complete the course entirely.  Many students engage only in discussions and others don’t continue with the course for some reasons.
  • Different Role of Instructor: Another major challenge is the different roles of instructor. Having a large number of participants also poses hurdle in communication between instructor and students. Student feel disconnected with the course and ultimately leaves in midway. This different role from instructor has definitely affected the position of MOOCs.
  • Relying on Multimedia Content: This is yet another problem which the user faces. As the entire course is offered online, both faculty and students have to rely on multimedia content. The course contains presentations, audio lectures, etc, all these through online medium. Not every student has the access to such multimedia and engages to it entirely.

Technical difficulties are the major hurdle that both the universities and students go through. Moreover, there were also few reports of plagiarism which raises question on its authenticity. For any kind of courses, quality matters the most and so the institute of university offering the course must make sure to offer quality course. This also brings interest among students to take up this course for higher studies. However, a proper research is essential to avoid any kind of mistake later on.

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