MOOCs: A Step in the Right Direction

e-Learning Concept. Computer Keyboard

The concept of ‘massively open online courses’ (MOOCs) have slowly but steadily taken the academic world by storm. While the idea has only been around for two years, many institutions of higher learning are keen to adapt this new mode of teaching. While some have quite a bit of qualm over the concept, the fact remains that a healthy discussion regarding the modern educational system has been initiated. In this article, we’ll discuss the current status of MOOCs worldwide.

Limitless potential
While the economy translates to unfavorable tuition fees and mounting student loans, it might be able to enhance the value proposition of a university degree. Through free courses, individuals are given the chance to learn and acquire possible degrees through credits that provide more worth with little to no restriction brought about by finances.

In recent news, American student loans skyrocketed to about $1 trillion mainly due to inflated rates by higher institutions. This can be traced back to either the general state of the American economy and the cuts implemented by the government across the educational sector. The problem does not stop there: only 50% of students who brave the lofty tuition of university education get a hold of a diploma and a bachelor’s degree.

MOOCs will be able to flip the dire situation, but only if the conditions are aligned perfectly. Colleges and universities should be able to recognize that offering courses online will save them funds, and in turn will allow them leeway to lower the expensive matriculation schemes. MOOC providers should continue to invest in technologies that will allow online courses to have a more precise grading scheme – a necessary step towards universal credit granting.

Smartphones and education

MOOCs play a vital role as a sort of test run on the future of learning in the digital era. New high-end top tier gadgets like Apple’s premiere smartphone, the iPhone 5S, lends itself to this endeavor. Innovative features are pushed down the pipeline constantly, such as better security (such as the Touch ID, a fingerprint scanning feature on latest iPhones as mentioned in O2′s page), more reader friendly screens, better and faster internet connectivity – all these are driving the online learning trend forward into new heights.

One benefit that is often overlooked is the fact that many people from remote and developing nations are using MOOCs and mobile technology as a substitute or supplement to the current learning options. For MOOCs to become a true force of change on a global scale, companies in the technology sector should create ventures that are aimed for this specific purpose. Jonathan Nalder, in his piece on Edutechdebate.org, noted that “for learners in remote locations or developing countries the promise of increased access to the keys of education must of course also be considered in light of the reality of the internet access needed to make much of it possible.”

A break in tradition

Last year, a program initiated by the Southern New Hampshire University called College for America was officially approved to grant degrees upon students depending on their proven and tested knowledge. This means that even if someone gathers all the knowledge he needs through other sources aside such as non-credited courses from MOOCs, then he or she will be granted a degree.

This triggered the United States Department of Higher Education to invite universities to create similar programs. If successful, students will no longer be required to carry on their shoulders the financial mountain of tertiary education. In effect, brick-and-mortar universities will have no choice but to compete through lowering their costs.

With all the benefits that could possibly change the education system for the better, the success of MOOCs ultimately depends on the quality of its courses and the eagerness of the government and tech titans to contribute to learning.

Reese Jones is a graduate student and a freelance writer for Techie Doodlers. She has successfully finished numerous courses on Coursera and edX to supplement her tech management master’s degree. Contact her via Twitter or add her on Google+.

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