Posted: Sunday, October 13, 2013 1:30 pm
By John Newsom
GREENSBORO — The hot new thing in higher education is online, open to everyone — and free.
They’re called MOOCs, which is short for “massive open online course.” (It’s pronounced “mook” and rhymes with “Duke.”) These online courses are taught by top professors at some of the world’s best-known universities. Millions of people with the desire to learn have logged into a MOOC.
Even local organizations are boarding the MOOC train. The Center for Creative Leadership is offering one, and UNCG is making two.
MOOCs might end up tearing down the ivory towers of academia. Or they might be a passing fad like MySpace and that “Gangnam Style” video. Whichever it is, here’s a primer on the MOOC phenomenon.
MOOCs have a huge dropout problem. Only about 10 percent of students who start a MOOC actually finish it.
The big question — do they work? — is one that friends and foes wrestle with.
“Everyone in the research field agrees that, for the particular purpose of replacing on-campus education, the evidence (for MOOCs) is ambiguous at best,” Andrew Ho, a professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and research director for Harvard’s EdX courses, told The Hechinger Report last month.
So, MOOCs “might change [the] face of higher education,” but “[f]ar more research is needed” (my emphasis). Most of the MOOC stories at this point seem to be about trying to anticipate the effect of MOOCs on higher education, while journalists remain unwilling to wait to see what the effect might actually be.