Massive Online Open Course (MOOC) You Never Knew

Massive Open Online Course, abbreviated as MOOC, has been heralded as the next big thing in education. It offers students an opportunity to learn from some of the best professors of the top Universities around the world. Although MOOC is still at a nascent stage, the overwhelming response it has garnered worldwide can be a sign of the times to come. However, in spite of getting widespread acclaim and acceptance (The New York Times dubbed 2012 as ‘The Year of MOOC’), there are certain challenges associated with it. The lack of accreditation of MOOCs is a concern that has been raised by many skeptics. Also, it has been seen that the difference between the number of students joining an MOOC, and the actual number of students completing it, is enormous. These concerns have raised certain questions on whether it is really the future of education around the world, or just another passing trend. Before we take a look at the advantages and disadvantages of MOOCs, let us quickly see how it became the buzzword in the last couple of years.
A Brief History of MOOC
Distance learning is an alternative to people who want to acquire higher studies, but are not able to due to geographical or monetary reasons. In its initial phase, distance learning was generally carried out through snail mails. After the advent of radio and television, there was a remarkable pedagogical change. But, what perhaps changed the whole structure of distance learning was the invention of personal computers and the World Wide Web. Students could now get all the information on a real-time basis, and connect with their fellows and teachers. Realizing that the Internet had opened up new areas of imparting education, many educators began to launch free online courses to mass audiences.

Speaking strictly about MOOCs, the first contributors were Stephen Downes and George Siemens of the University of Manitoba, Canada. But what really brought MOOCs in the mainstream consciousness was the ‘Introduction to Artificial Intelligence’ course, offered by two Stanford Professors – Sebastian Thrun and Peter Norvig. A whopping 160,000 students from 190 countries signed up for the course, and a new method of teaching and learning was born. MOOC was massive, online, and open, and it promised to present an opportunity to millions of students to learn from the most renowned names from Ivy League colleges. Thrun and Norvig streamlined the process of MOOC by creating Udacity, a website which provides information about the upcoming courses, and allows students to sign up for them. Two more companies, Coursera and edX also started their operations in 2012, each offering free online courses from some of the most prestigious Universities of America.

Although the concept of MOOC looks absolutely fascinating, there are certain challenges that need to be addressed if it has to truly become the next big thing in the education sector. In the following paragraphs, we will understand the viewpoint of the opponents and proponents of MOOCs, and get a hang of its pros and cons.
Pros
Free
Student taking notes from internet
One of the most important factors for a lot of aspiring students is whether or not they can afford the high tuition fees required for embarking on a course. With MOOCs, all you need is a PC with an Internet connection. Most of the MOOCs don’t charge a single penny for their courses, although one may need to pay a small fee for getting the completion certificate.