Huh? “What the heck is MOOCs?” you are asking, I’m sure. Good question.

“A massive open online course (MOOC) is an online course aimed at large-scale interactive participation and open access via the web. In addition to traditional course materials such as videos, readings, and problem sets, MOOCs provide interactive user forums that help build a community for the students, professors, and teaching assistants (TAs). MOOCs are a recent development in distance education.” ~ From Wikipedia.

The high and rising cost of college combined with advances in technology leave higher education ripe for reinvention. The implementation of distance education continues to evolve; both as an effort to reach a broader student base, and to reduce costs. This evolution in online education has lead to the development of college courses being presented across a range of schools in a wide variety of locations; thus the name Massive Open Online Courses – or MOOCs.

MOOCs are forcing colleges and students to ask the right questions. What are the benefits of requiring students to attend classes in an on-campus setting? Can some of those benefits be accessed online? Can colleges focus on those on-campus benefits while leveraging technology to reduce cost and increase access? Can MOOCs increase learning outcomes and help more students attend and graduate college? Is a college degree the right way to think about higher education, or is a model of learning outcomes and skills possible?

These and many other questions are being asked, and answered, by today’s educators and by parents of college age children, making online education a fact of life in the 21st Century.

However, there is dissent, with some in higher education believing that MOOCs may turn the education process into a monoculture, with a limited exchange of ideas and a lack of the interaction necessary for higher level learning. While there may be some validity to these objections, it must also be said that we are certainly in an experimentation phase with higher education, but online small group discussion and virtual office hours have been effective ways to promote interactive learning; with students able to access multiple teachers and points of view.

Of course, this subject is far too large to examine completely here, but I hope I’ve at least stimulated the thought process and peaked your curiosity about MOOCs and online education. For more detailed information, please follow the links to the articles listed below:

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