What’s up with MOOCs?

MOOCs (massive online open courses) were predicted to bring a revolution to higher education in 2012. Many predicted that having access to free, high quality classes would mean a sharp decline in the reliance of independent, physical higher education institutions (colleges and universities). In 2014, this prediction seems to have missed the mark.

In theory, the ability for anyone with access to a computer connected to the internet to take classes that can be used for credit towards a degree seems amazing. In actuality those who were the original target market, young adults from a low socio-economic background, are the people who have the hardest time succeeding at using MOOCs. These are the people who need structured academic environments and support from their higher education institutions in order to succeed. In actuality, MOOCs seem to work best for older adults with jobs who are looking to learn something of interest outside the realm of their profession. They can replace classes at a Community College with a MOOC taught by a tenured and respected professor from an university like Stanford free of charge.

As our world population grows and becomes more reliant on technology, MOOCs will be there to help out and may even become essential to the existence of education. However, a lot of changes will have to happen, either in the world or in the way MOOC operates, before that will become a reality. MOOCs can be very effective tools, maybe just not in the way we’d expect.



One thought on “What’s up with MOOCs?

  1. I thought this was an interesting post. I’ve taken some online courses before and I can definitely say that I prefer the structure of the actual classroom. I think it’s important for anthropologists to look at how education works among different social/economic groups. Maybe having a better understanding of the needs of various social groups would allow us to create educational systems that are better able to accommodate these needs. If MOOCs work better for older adults, then maybe they should change their target audience.

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