Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCS)

Online education | the latest development

The popularity of massive open online courses (MOOC) where students typically access weekly video presentations or lectures by professors, accompanied by an assessment or test, is rapidly growing.

Many of them are free and thousands of people are accessing them and taking advantage of the high quality content now available from education providers across the globe.

Will MOOCS change higher education learning?

Some commentators say it may cause some disruption to the traditional structure of higher education. MOOC courses are offered through internet platforms. Providers, principally US based, such as Coursera, Udacity and edX to name a few, have led the way up to now.

The Open University (OU), based in the UK, has now joined the forum with its FutureLearn platform, which hosts various short courses offered by more than 20 UK based universities.
Many Business schools are also already involved. One of America's top ranked business schools, Wharton, has recently made available the majority of its first-year MBA content to students online – and it’s free.

The OU’s FutureLearn offers of a ten-week Norwich Business School course on branding, as well as a six-week course from Warwick University’s behavioural science department designed to give students a taste of some aspects of Human Psychology.

Various other institutions are also planning MOOCS. Among them are, Durham University Business School which is developing four courses:
  • - crisis management
    - social media
    - strategy
    - organisational change

They plan to use existing multimedia technology and content from its online MBA.

Grenoble, which already also offers its MBA in London – is also developing MOOCS in areas such as:
  • – geopolitics
    – innovation
    – research methods

What is the future of MOOCS?

Is it likely that we see a full MOOC MBA? It would certainly offer advantages, as the cost of a traditional full-time MBA can easily be in excess of $100,000. The majority of MOOC courses at the moment are offered on a free basis. Not only that, they are easily accessible on a global basis (with broadband connection) and content is clearly presented and easy to understand. Students can also control their own personal learning environment.

However, there are some disadvantages for students using MOOCS:
  • – The need for a high degree of self-motivation
    – no formal accreditation
    – Minimal feedback from teachers
    – Lack of face-to-face contact with other participants / students.

As the debate over connectivism and other learning theories related to the digital age continue to gather traction, it may be some time before a consensus appears.

Not all MBA providers are in favor of jumping on the MOOC bandwagon. An example of this is Edinburgh Business School, run by Heriot-Watt University, which says that its distance-learning MBA programme, which is unaccredited, has more than 11,000 students actively following courses and is the largest of its kind in the world. Alick Kitchen of EBS says, “We utilize technological developments such as the internet, web boards, blogs, and e-books … but we haven’t adopted synchronous virtual talking heads or high-bandwidth video streaming, which discriminate against low-IT societies and often don't scale successfully.”

What do employers think of MOOCS?

Perhaps one of the most important aspects which could work against MOOCS is that many employers do not look upon them favorably compared to more traditional higher education courses, as they do not provide the same networking experience as, for example, a full-time immersion MBA, although many students of online courses do in fact develop personal learning networks.

The reality is that MOOCS are more likely to disrupt some of the lower-cost MBAs which are offered on a distance-learning basis than the more well-established up-market courses.

As with many new technology and Web 2.0 developments, the big question is: how will MOOCS generate income for the educators in the longer term so that they are sustainable? At the moment they are mostly offered on a free basis. Will they become nothing more than clever mashup marketing tools for educational institutions? Or will we see fee-based assessment protocols and in-content advertising in the future related to online higher education?