With the upcoming 2nd anniversary of EdX on May 15th, 2014, MOOC's are finally coming into their own. EdX offers free course work and study guides from premier universities such as Harvard, University of Pennsylvania, and Georgia Tech.
MOOC stands for Massive Open Online Course. Subject matter for these courses is diverse and ranges from ancient history to modern genetics and everything in between. The quality of instruction is very high. Often, the online students study the same exact material as the students who are at the physical university. Some popular sites that offer MOOC’s are Coursera, ALISON, Udacity, SkyNet University, and the aforementioned EdX.
Professors who have created custom MOOC’s use video courses, peer grading, and multiple choice exams to share their expertise with students around the world. Attendance ranges from a couple hundred students to more students than would fit in a large stadium!
Universities have been experimenting with offering these courses since 2011. MOOC’s are seen as disruptors of traditional education modalities, and many wonder if they will eventually overtake and render universities unnecessary.
Some critics point to the low completion rate of less than 10%. However, it’s interesting to note that mail correspondence schools of the past had a student completion rate of less than 5%.
The model is still experimental and incomplete, but the motivation behind it is genuine. MOOC’s are a grand experiment, and they will continue to evolve into a more refined and valuable tool for both educators and students alike.