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  • What is the status of MOOCs or Massive Open Online Courses?
  • Posted By:
  • Chris J
  • Posted On:
  • 04-Jan-2014
  • A question many ask now is whether MOOCs have failed. Just a couple of years ago, a trend-setting internet revolution were predicted by advocates of MOOC. These courses aimed at offering students low cost or even free lectures from world’s leading universities. So, what went wrong? Initially the numbers were quite remarkable and encouraging.

    For example, Udacity is an online education company floated by a computer science profession from Stanford. This company offered a free artificial intelligence course. More than 150,000 students enrolled for the course which was a revolutionary figure.

    edX, a non-profit was floated by MIT and Harvard and Coursera soon followed. In order to develop skills in students just as in conventional courses science professors of MOOCs offer students a series of exercises and tutorials apart from the regular recorded lectures.

    Final examination is conducted on an honor system and mentors who act as teaching assistants play an important role. The trend was so encouraging that prominent investors described the program as Harvard opportunity that could even reach the poorest of children across the world.

    The funniest part is that MOOC is not actually a serious threat for the faculty members especially the young professors. A stark picture is painted by the data compiled by the Google Vice President and academic Thrun. His data shows that MOOC completion rates are very low. Sadly, pass percentage is below five and he describes this revelation as painful.

    Due to this disappointing trend, Udacity has navigated, rightly so, to skills that can be immediately used. Corporations in a bid to expand their qualified job candidate pool, underwrites the courses.
    Though a lot of academicians see MOOCs as a major threat to professors, it is not so.

    The real threat is the creation of permanent adjunct underclass and the growing gratification of the profession. In his capacity as a renowned researcher, Thrun definitely has an edge over other teachers with limited resources or visibility to develop their courses.  According to critics, MOOCs could actually be a powerful tool of hegemony for elite institutions rather than a weakening factor.

    Specifying background knowledge better and modifying content could be the answer to drastically improving MOOC yields. It must be remembered that courses have to be prepared for a hugely diverse audience with varying preparation levels.

    Originally a sceptic, Robert Sedgewick, a professor of computer science at Princeton gave a lecture recently online. At least 80,000 students registered for this lecture from a professor known to be an expert in algorithms. In fact, this course of his is one of the most popular in Princeton.

    In spite of his 40 years of experience, Sedgewick took over 100 hours to prepare the lecture. He had to take the help of over 6 development tools and illustrate the course principles like binary search trees to create a dynamic content. A course like this thus definitely needs financial backing and sponsorship from corporate or foundation, from volunteers, from institutions and from instructors.

    Sceptics may ask as to why we must put in so much effort in an unproven concept. Sedgewick and other experts feel that to move more aggressively forward and push the concept to make it profitable is the way to build enrolment and enhance completion rates.


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