What do massive open online courses mean for the future of higher education?
By John K. Waters
Colleges and universities are on the verge of a “massive” makeover thanks to the advent of massive open online courses. At least, that’s what we keep hearing. Proponents declare MOOCs to be the future of higher education in America–perhaps not without cause. Big-name schools, including Harvard University (MA), Stanford University (CA), and MIT, are investing millions in MOOC development. One of the leading MOOC providers, Coursera, recently announced partnerships with 10 public universities and university systems to develop courses, even as the Georgia Institute of Technology unveiled a $7,000 MOOC master’s degree in computer science in partnership with Udacity. Some states are even pushing legislation that would force public colleges and universities to accept credits earned in MOOCs.
But not everyone is embracing the advent of the large-scale online course. Critics worry that MOOCs will harm higher education because their adoption is driven primarily by financial concerns, not pedagogy. In their view, prepackaged MOOCs can’t possibly deliver the same quality experience that a live instructor can provide. Furthermore, they claim, MOOCs will distance students from professors engaged in research, dilute the diverse viewpoints found in a classroom, and ultimately reduce the number of living, breathing faculty.
So which is it? Are MOOCs good for higher education or bad? Not surprisingly, the answer isn’t as simple as the surrounding hyperbole would suggest. Their true impact remains to be seen, of course: In their current form, MOOCs have been around for only a few years, and MOOC fever is even younger. More important, higher education is not a monolithic entity: The US is home to more than 4,000 institutions of higher learning, ranging from Ivy League universities to community colleges, for-profits, and state schools. MOOCs are likely to impact different institutions in vastly different ways.
[ Full article available at Campus Technology: http://campustechnology.com/Articles/2013/09/04/The-Rise-of-MOOCs.aspx ]