There sure is a lot of press on MOOCs lately. That’ll happen when your nonprofit MOOC company gets 60 million bucks from MIT and Harvard or your user numbers are growing faster than Facebook’s.
MOOCs (massive, open, online courses) are just like normal online courses. But they can have a 100,000 students or more. While most of the MOOCs are offering certificates upon course completion, some institutions are beginning to offer credit.
One key question is this: for how long will MOOCs stay “open”? Monetization of the “product” could occur through advertisements, but if you have an international group of consumers that gain even nominal loyalty to your institution through a MOOC, it will be tempting to cash in.
While generally online courses fail to help students gain the social capital necessary for prestigious employment, in the developing world, MOOCs may offer an alternative to the traditional lines of education created and enforced by the likes of the World Bank. If MOOCs remain free, citizens of developing countries may be able to rely on them for professional and economic development free from the World Bank’s draconian enforcement of outdated pedagogy.
On the other hand, online courses embody a student-as-consumer mindset, and rarely do anything to connect the learner more closely to their home. Some professors are managing to help all kinds of learners learn online, but the context of a community of learners is hard to reproduce. Being around people doing what you are doing is a powerful learning tool. Look at medical residencies for an example.
I have never taken a MOOC, so it’s hard to be very judgmental. What techniques do the professors use? Are they like super-professors, capable of teaching 100,000 students at a time? Do they use small groups? And what would constitute a small group in a class so large? 100 groups of 1000?