A qualified case for MOOCs

Each week, Symposium Magazine invites an author to guest-blog. This week, Judith Sebesta is blogging about “College for All, Or Just For Some?It is impossible to ignore the Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) boom when mentioning alternative paths to advanced education, as I did in my article. They seem to be everywhere these days, for better or worse, although recently the gild on the lily is wearing a bit thin.

I don’t think MOOCs are the answer to all of higher education’s problems, but I do think that they could serve as one solution to the challenge of how to provide education for personal enrichment for those who may not seek college degrees.

University-sponsored continuing education tends to require paying fees and living near a campus. By contrast, MOOCs offer access to top faculty and innovative knowledge to virtually anyone with a computer and internet connection.

Although they began by focusing on such high-tech subjects as computer programming and artificial intelligence, today’s MOOCs offer a full range of courses across disciplines. And now that edX just announced a partnership with Google to extend a MOOC platform to just about anyone seeking to design and offer a course, there will be something for everyone.

Critics of MOOCs maintain a healthy skepticism about quality and low completion rates. Attempts to assess effectiveness and student competency have led the American Council on Education to get involved to vet some of these for course credit.

And for those non-degreed individuals I discussed in my article who may seek knowledge solely for personal or even professional enrichment, MOOCs may not be entirely free, as they often are touted: not everyone has affordable access to either the Internet or the technological tools and resources required by some of the instructors.

Still, this revolution, or disruption, in higher education could move us further toward expanding and democratizing options for education.

I invite readers to discuss experiences you may have had teaching or taking MOOCs, or to share your impressions of them as a means for educational transformation.

Share This