Technology has been a game changer for most industries, professions, and activities. The education landscape is no exception. Online courses, free or low-cost MOOCs (massive open online courses), and hybrid courses that combine online instruction with bricks and mortar classrooms are changing the way we think about, deliver, and consume education.
In the 1970s, remote classes used VHS and closed circuit TV to accommodate working students; this was followed by online courses. In 2011, a Stanford professor delivered a course on artificial intelligence for free via the Internet to 160,000 students around the world, starting the MOOC revolution in the United States.
In 2012, two Silicon Valley based MOOC providers—Udacity and Coursera—were launched, followed by edX, a non-profit MOOC. Using these providers, top universities including Harvard, Yale, and Duke have made some courses available online for free. Generally, universities do not grant college credit for MOOCs, unless they are associated with their own programs; however, due to increasing pressure, this could change in the future.
By offering global students easy access to courses from some of the most distinguished professors and universities, MOOCs have disrupted and even threatened long-standing academic approaches in higher education.
While millions of students have enrolled in such courses, completion rates are below 10 percent. Some enrollees merely seek a quick overview of course content, while others find the courses too time consuming, too difficult, or too easy. Many students learn best with human interaction and the structure found in traditional classrooms, which are lacking in fully online courses. Additional challenges revolve around assessments, research, cheating, and plagiarism, which are heightened with online learning.
Despite the issues, advocates of MOOCs say they are beneficial, even if they don’t count toward a degree. Besides offering remedial courses that may be needed prior to college, MOOCs offer students a chance to explore interests or sharpen professional career skills. Universities continue to experiment with MOOCs and flipped classrooms as student engagement can be improved with interactive online courses. Flipped classrooms allow students to view lectures online, followed by small group discussions on campus.
The use of online tools also is accelerating at the secondary education level. Increasingly, states and school districts require online coursework as a graduation requirement to prepare students for college and career. Educational websites, such as Khan Academy, are being used in high schools to allow students to learn at their own level and pace.
Online lessons for high school students taking Advanced Placement (AP) classes are being designed jointly by Davidson College’s professors, and edX. According to the New York Times, the professors are using the College Board’s AP exam data and are working with teachers to design online modules covering difficult concepts.
These are just a sampling of the myriad ways MOOCs and online learning is being used or developed to deliver education. Stay tuned for more changes in education, driven by creativity, technology, and innovation.
Ferah Aziz is a college coach with launchphase2. Visit www. launchphase2.com/ or call 720-340-8111 to learn more about coaching for college bound students, and success coaching for college students. P. Carol Jones is the author of “Toward College Success: Is Your Teenager Ready, Willing, and Able.” Visit www.towardcollegesuccess.com to read excerpts and to follow her blog.