Diving Headfirst into MOOCs

If you’re anywhere near higher education these days, MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses)  are causing a lot of pursed lips and disapproving looks amongst academics–and, interestingly enough, a cause to rally around for others. A faculty member at my institution recently circulated the article Massive Open Online Courses, aka MOOCs, Transform Higher Education and Science with the thought that institutions should evolve and change with the times (sound advice for any organization). Change and adaptability is necessary for any species survival, as stated much more eloquently by Charles Darwin:

"It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change." - Charles Darwin

MOOCs are, as their name implies, huge. Coursera (one of the largest, if not THE largest at the time of writing) recently announced that it was working with the American Council on Education (ACE) to evaluate credit equivalency for the Coursera courses, and already hosts courses from instructors at Stanford, Duke, Penn State, Princeton, and other premier institutions. Over 3 million people have enrolled in courses.

But, despite the hubbub and glimmer of accreditation, a closer look begs more consideration. This piece (The Professors Who Make the MOOCs)  from The Chronicle found that

As far as awarding formal credit is concerned, most professors do not think their MOOCs are ready for prime time. Asked if students who succeed in their MOOCs deserve to get course credit from their home institutions, 72 percent said no.

TechCrunch suggests that the MOOC race is administrator-driven. Indeed, if the University of California is any indication, professors have no intention of giving credit where it’s not deserved.

For the most part, I’m inclined to agree with the later party, but I’m still interested in this concept. So I recently enrolled in two Coursera-offered classes, one offered by Penn State  (Gamification) and another entitled A Beginner’s Guide to Irrational Behavior (by one of my favorite speaker/authors, Dan Ariely of Duke University).

I’ll keep y’all updated on how it goes. I will say I do like Coursera’s user interface–which is a form of evolution to which higher ed institutions should definitely adapt.

Have you participated in any MOOCs? What’s your experience been?

What do you think?

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