Though online courses have proved to be a boon, they fall short in some crucial areas. An analysis.
Digitisation has revolutionised several spheres of our lives — from education to online shopping, ordering food, Net banking and much more. In the education sector, particularly, it has broadened the scope of learning. Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) have emerged as a popular medium of learning, making educational content on various topics and subjects available online for any learner.
With MOOCs, learners have an opportunity to study university-quality courses at a lower cost. Though MOOCs are non-degree courses, there are a few institutions that have started offering advanced learning options, certificates and credit preferences at an additional cost. This is an ideal medium for individual learners as they have the liberty to select courses from different institutions.
MOOCs do not require a fixed location or a system. A user can access information from any location through computer. There is no hard-and-fast rule for maintaining attendance. Anyone can get enrolled for free, irrespective of their present educational or professional level. One can even show a MOOC as a qualification through a paid verified certificate.
This makes the certificate and the course more authentic and adds value to the resume.
MOOCs have a lot of scope in the K-12 sector, especially as they provide a structure similar to that of tuitions. They enable students to master their concepts in subjects such as science, maths and English. Beyond K-12, MOOCs’ reach is also estimated to expand in higher education, vocational studies and corporate training.
In just a few years, MOOCs have seen a massive demand, with over one million registrations. Coursera is one of the largest MOOC providers, with over 200 courses in different subjects such as social science, economics, computer, music, business, health and science. Udacity and edX are the other leading online course providers.
These brands have now joined hands with renowned universities from across the world such as Harvard, Edinburgh, Stanford, Melbourne and Toronto, to work together. According to a study conducted in the U.K. in 2013, though the percentage of students opting for MOOCs is more in North America and Europe, there is a rising demand and scope for it in Asia and Africa as well. In India, higher education is expensive and MOOCs have come as an antidote to this problem with free classes. Other than that, the current faculty-student ratio in different institutions of the country has pushed the need and demand for MOOCs.
At present, in India, the participation or enrolment level is limited for such courses. But there are chances that in future, the number of learners will see a spike, the reason being increased availability and access of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) through smartphones and tablets.
Every technology comes with its own set of benefits and drawbacks. MOOCs provide authentic information on the websites, but do not undertake any responsibility for its accuracy. Universities offering MOOCs may change the information on courses and related services on their website without any prior notice.
Another drawback is that not every student completes the course and many leave it half way. A major reason for this is that the MOOC content designed by various universities does not take into consideration the local context and requirements of the student taking the course.
A possible challenge pointed out by academicians is that the content generated could be totally independent and created by multiple users, which could lead to a chaotic learning experience if the user making changes lacks relevant subject expertise.
There are chances that some learners do not take MOOCs seriously due to the non-certified degree or qualification attached to it. Not all MOOC projects would have open licensing of content, well-defined learning goals, serious pedagogies and an open structure. In some of the MOOCs, the content is very short, non-engaging and incomplete, thus defeating the true purpose of MOOCs.
At present, some of the prominent American MOOC providers such as MIT (via edX), Stanford University and Harvard University have come together to resolve many of these issues by developing software platforms for delivering the online courses effectively. One can hope that MOOCs would soon provide more flexibility along with the required resources and make online learning a hub of opportunities for the next generation.
The writer is CEO and co-founder, Next Education India Pvt. Ltd.