In the summer of 2011, massive open online courses, or MOOCs, appeared seemingly out of nowhere and changed the education landscape forever. In many ways, MOOCs are like the troublemakers in Apple’s legendary “Think Different” ad: You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. But the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things.
Fast-forward to 2014, and change has come indeed. But while MOOCs have changed the education landscape, MOOCs themselves have changed too. Numerous MOOC providers have appeared, competing for the attention of learners around the globe. What started with a few courses is now a rapidly developing field with thousands of courses on offer. Some providers have changed their focus from traditional higher education to more vocational training. Most have started charging for services such as verified certificates. All of them are trying to figure out where this rocket ship is headed.
Anything that makes such a splash in such a short amount of time is guaranteed to have its critics, and MOOCs were no exception. After disappointing results in high-profile experiments at San Jose State University, critics saw themselves vindicated, and the New York Times – which had boldly declared the year of the MOOC in 2012 – ran an article with the title “After Setbacks, Online Courses Are Rethought”. Multiple studies have shown that MOOC completion rates are in the low single digits.
Part of the problem lies in the fact that education is a highly multi-dimensional process. People differ in why they learn in the first place. People differ in how they learn. People differ in what they learn. Yet MOOCs, coming from a specific higher education background, using basic web technology only, were somehow forced into the role of the great disruptor of all education. Thankfully, most of the discussions are much more nuanced these days, with a focus on finding ways to use online technology to provide everyone with the best environment for them to learn the things they need to learn.
[ Full article available at WIRED: http://www.wired.com/2014/09/moocs-2-0/ ]