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College Affordability and Preparedness

The Truth About MOOCs

Photo: Courtesy of Mimi Thian

Massive Online Open Courses (MOOCS) are an attempt to change the fabric of higher education.  While they will have some impact on online education, their larger target for change appears to be some of the long standing beliefs about higher education.  The current designs of many online courses are patterned from success in the face to face classroom, which now may be out of step with learning preferences in the mobile age of social networks. 

Within the MOOC movement, a deep societal context exists to give access to higher education to those who could not afford it or gain access by other means.  Visible as well is the notion that knowledge and collective experience of the many is superior to the knowledge and experience of a single professor.  Evaluation of competencies in the MOOC movement is in the hands of the students who are equipped with rubrics to evaluate others.  With recent announcements granting college credit equivalencies for the completion of courses offered via the MOOC movement, interest in them will continue to grow.

While MOOCS attempt to shift some historical paradigms about higher education, we still have a great deal of work ahead to improve the quality and relevance of the learning experience for students and teachers.  We do not know what either one needs to learn about the subject or how they will choose to repurpose that learning in the future.  Technology enables us to find relevant information, changing our teaching role from conveying “facts” to developing the thinking skills necessary to facilitate problem-solving and critical thinking.  If we provide the student with choices about what competencies would be most beneficial to them and utilize authentic assessment practices, we can dramatically increase the relevancy and purposeful nature of the experience, resulting in genuine educational program improvement.

Online learning has provided a “structure” in which every student is called upon to contribute actively to their own learning experience.  Most students report that online learning provides an atmosphere in which they are more deeply involved in exploring the content and in acquiring the competencies supported by the design of the coursework.

The MOOC movement and online learning have fundamentally changed the expectations of students about what learning should be.  With the proliferation of mobile devices, perhaps our learning experience embraces the new reality of how we desire to learn in the 21st century.

Dr. Chuck Kater, Associate Vice President Park Distance Learning, Park University, [email protected]

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