Traditionally, information was transmitted from a lecturer to enrolled, fee-paying students in a classroom or lecture hall. Thanks to technological advancements, you can now attend online courses offered by Ivy League universities from Harvard to MIT all from the comfort of your home without paying a dime in tuition fees.
MOOC is an acronym for Massive Open Online Courses, and it’s used to describe free, easily accessible, completely online courses. It’s also defined as an online video of a college lecture. MOOCs are becoming increasingly popular as a way to self-educate. Here are the pros and cons of MOOCs and online learning to keep in mind.
Pros of MOOCs and online learning
Free and convenient
These online courses are free and available to everyone interested in them. All you need is an existing way to access the internet and you’re good to go. There are no other formal requirements that would otherwise be exclusionary. Online learning saves costs and is convenient because there is no commuting or travelling to a campus. There are no geographical constraints so you can access courses at top universities all over the world without worrying about costs and more.
Wide range of topics
A wide range of topics and fields of inquiry are available. There are online courses on development, business and marketing, economics and finance, IT & software, health and fitness, philosophy and ethics, biology and life sciences, science and social sciences, engineering, productivity, personal development, languages, photography, writing, and many more. Some courses even give free completion certificates to those who finish the courses. Online learning makes it possible to study widely and pursue varied interests.
The nature of online courses is they attract a diverse range of students from all over the globe. Most MOOCs encourage students to discuss, post, share, and ask for student interaction and feedback. This diversity enriches engagement and discussions on class message boards and other class discussion forums. The diversity in online learning almost guarantees a wide range of perspectives which elevates the quality of knowledge shared and the overall experience. Students can also engage in independent discussions that are not particularly instructor-led.
Students have control
The pace of traditional learning is set by the teacher and their class plan and curriculum. Traditionally this has led to students either falling behind or feeling rushed. Online learning puts the power in the hands of the student. The student attends the online course when they want to, they set their own pace and employ learning strategies that they know work for them. It’s great for introverts and people who communicate best through writing rather than speaking. It allows them to participate as opposed to traditional learning structures where the most outgoing students were the ones who largely got to engage.
An online course can be used to supplement traditional approaches as part of a blended learning approach. Online learning can provide students with an opportunity and a way to go deeper into the subject matter, accessing more information than what is provided in class.
Creates a dynamic archive
The video recordings capture the best work of lecturers, subject experts, and great thinkers. This archive will be available for posterity which is objectively great for humanity.
Maximize teaching time
In the case of blended learning, online learning allows lecturers to send their students home with assignments to watch or read so that the classroom time is exclusively for the most valuable in-person discussions.
Cons of MOOCs and online learning
Massive and impersonal
When it comes to learning, the faculty-to-student ratio has always been an important parameter. These classes can be massive thus making it difficult for lectures to connect with students and have any meaningful impact on them. This personal connection is important when it comes to learning success and online learning options often lack this.
Courses often encourage students to engage on message and discussion boards to address it but it’s still a massive undertaking. There is still a tangible loss when it comes to human interaction between the students and the teachers as well as between the student and other students.
Effectiveness of assessment
It is difficult to assess the effectiveness of the program and what the students are learning. The massive classes also make it difficult for lecturers to keep track of the students’ assignments and involvement. This is why online learning works best for mature adults who know what they are hoping to learn from the course and are able to assess their learning themselves.
Lack of credits and non-accreditation
You can work hard and complete a course yet still not get academic credits. Even when you get official recognition showing you completed the course, it may not be valued by employers and other gatekeepers.
Statistically, only about 10% of people who choose online learning successfully complete the courses they sign up for. For a variety of reasons including interesting waning over time, interest wanes over time.
Make discussions challenging
Facilitating meaningful discussions in real life can be difficult, it is borderline impossible with thousands of students on online message boards, forums, and chat rooms.
MOOCs and online learning run the risk of eventually shrinking and eliminating faculties. Why hire many professors when you can just hire one superstar lecturer to record a course that you then distribute ad infinitum?
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