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Running head: GOT MOOC? THE ROLE OF ONLINE COURSES IN EDUCATION

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Got MOOC?

The Role of Online Courses in Education

Margaret Gruss

EDTC 515

Azusa Pacific University

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Got MOOC? The Role of Online Courses in Education

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are the modern version of distance learning.

Prior to technology, people could take correspondence courses through the mail. Eventually as

radio and television developed, so did opportunities to learn. With the advent of computer

technology, a whole new form of learning has evolved as the MOOC (Wikipedia, 2015, para.3).

MOOC Defined and Explained

The term MOOC was developed as a descriptor for the online courses that resulted from

the development of the internet and personal computing. The M stands for Massive. The intent

with these courses is for large numbers of students to access them. The first O stands for Open.

According to Marques (2013) in MOOC News and Reviews, there were three ideas behind the

word Open. Open refers primarily to the idea that these courses require no fee and no application

to take them. Currently some courses do require a fee, especially for a certificate or as part of a

degree program. However, Open could also mean that the material be non-copyrighted and free

to be changed. Another idea behind Open is to open the flow of information between the teacher

and student to allow information to flow both ways. The last two concepts are not really

happening at this point. The second O stands for Online. Currently the courses exist online,

although many are used for a hybrid model of instruction called blended learning. The MOOCs

can be thought of as content, which, like a textbook, can be used in a class (Pope, 2014, para.10).

Finally, the C stands for Course. A MOOC is a course as opposed to just an online video in that

it has the components of an actual course. There are assignments and evaluations, the lessons are

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linked to a broader topic, and these courses do come to an end. These classes are generally self-

paced and a-synchronous, but they can be synchronous.

MOOCs started up in 2008 and in 2012 were declared to be the revolutionary of higher

education (Lapowski, 2014, para.1, Wikipedia, 2015, para.1). By that point several providers had

emerged to host these online classes. Coursera and edX are two of the largest.

People take MOOCs for a variety of reasons (Riddell, 2015, para.6). Some people take

them for personal learning or enrichment. MOOCs allow for lifelong learning. Others take them

for career reasons. It might be to get a certificate or learn specific skills needed to keep their job

or advance to a new one. Due to the different motivations it is good that the courses are free and

flexible. People can make the courses what they want them to be, personalizing the learning for

themselves. This is one reason that some people don’t complete the courses. Students learn what

they want and or need and don’t spend time on the rest (Pope, 2014, para.10). College prep is

another reason some people take the courses. Some universities have begun to offer AP courses

since some school districts have cut them due to budget restraints. EdX also provides courses to

help students with college admission (Lapowski, 2014, para.12 – 13).

There are several benefits to the Universities that offer MOOCs. One advantage for those

schools is an increased awareness of the school. Another benefit is to help students be better

prepared for courses that are offered on campus. However, the largest benefit is the ability to

analyze large amounts of data. (Negrea, 2013, para.3) By the end of 2014 Pope reported that

“Coursera and edX… are up to nearly 13 million users and more than 1,200 courses between

them” (2014, para.4). The impact of this massive data will be discussed more in the following

section.

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World Impact

MOOCs are having an impact on learning in profound ways. One way that MOOCs are

doing this is by providing educational opportunities to people who otherwise might not have

access to higher learning (Koller, 2012, min.18). The low or no cost of courses, combined with

the flexibility and personalization, allows people to take the courses in ways that are manageable

to their life circumstances. Higher learning is now available to more people than ever before.

Secondly, MOOCs are increasing the quality of on campus, face-to-face educations.

Colleges and universities are having to consider their cost of providing an education (Pope, 2014,

para.15). If high quality learning can be had for free or little cost, what is the advantage of an on

campus education? The end result should be an increase in the quality of those educations

provided on campus.

Thirdly, MOOCs enable and validate life long learning to occur (Koller, 2012, min.19,

EDUCAUSE, 2013, min.1). With the built in flexibility, people can fit learning into their busy

lives. Additionally, since most MOOCs are free or low cost, people can learn what they want and

move on to a new course as soon as they are ready.

Fourthly, the data that is collected through MOOCs allows for learning to be

personalized. Since data is collected much more easily from digital learning than through

traditional classes, online learning can be much more responsive to individual needs. Also,

students can follow a path of their choosing within a course (Koller, 2012, min.7).

Lastly, MOOCs are changing our understanding of how people learn best and in turn

changing the way that teachers are teaching (Lapowski, 2014, para.10). Due to the massive

amounts of data collected, teachers are able to determine the most effective methods of teaching

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for their content. “edX has even launched A/B testing on its site, allowing professors to try out

different methods of teaching and comparing student outcomes(Lapowski, 2014, para.11). This

allows professors to experiment with different pedagogy with real data to compare.

Personal Experience

My experience with taking a MOOC has been very positive. The number of courses

offered made it easy to find a course of interest. Actually, it was difficult to narrow my decision

down to one. I chose to take the class The World of Wine since my husband and I enjoy wine. I

did not pay to receive a certificate at the end since I have no need for it. This particular class is a-

synchronous and self-paced. The material was easy to learn in a relaxed setting. Particularly

enjoyable was being able to take the course with my husband as our schedules allowed. The

lessons were clearly laid out and easy to follow. Extra learning materials, such as charts, were

provided. Also included were several hands on activities. These are very important to make sure

that we have more than just head knowledge about wine. Due to time constraints these past

weeks, I have not completed the course, although I fully intend to. This is an excellent way to

learn and I plan to continue to take courses in this manner.

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References

EDUCAUSE. [Video]. (2013). What is a MOOC? Retrieved from

http://www.educause.edu/library/massive-open-online-course-mooc

Johnson, J. (2012). What in the world is a MOOC? The Washington Post. Retrieved from

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/campus-overload/post/what-in-the-world-is-a-

mooc/2012/09/24/50751600-0662-11e2-858a-5311df86ab04_blog.html

Koller, D. (2012). [Video]. What we’re learning from online education. Retrieved from

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U6FvJ6jMGHU

Lapowski, I. (2014). Why free online classes are still the future of education. WIRED. Retrieved

from http://www.wired.com/2014/09/free-online-classes-still-future-education/

Marques, J. (2013). What is a Massive Open Online Course anyway? MOOC News and Reviews.

Retrieved from http://moocnewsandreviews.com/what-is-a-massive-open-online-course-

anyway-attempting-definition/

Negrea, S. (2013). Colleges and universities begin to assess the benefits of MOOCs. University

Business. Retrieved from http://www.universitybusiness.com/article/colleges-and-

universities-begin-assess-benefits-moocs

Pappano, L. (2012). The year of the MOOC. The New York Times, Nov. 2, 2012, Retrieved from

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/04/education/edlife/massive-open-online-courses-are-

multiplying-at-a-rapid-pace.html?pagewanted=all&_r=1

Pope, J. (2014). What are MOOCs good for? MIT Review. Retrieved from

http://www.technologyreview.com/review/533406/what-are-moocs-good-for/

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Riddel, R. (2015). Coursera’s Stiglitz: MOOC revolution is just beginning. Education

Dive. Retrieved from: http://www.educationdive.com/news/courseras-stiglitz-mooc-

revolution-is-just-beginning-sxswedu-2015/374642/

Wikipedia. (2015). Massive Open Online Classes. Retrieved from

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Massive_open_online_course