Can MOOCs and Classrooms Be Squared? (IEDP)

17 Feb 2014

VIEWPOINT: According to Insper’s Carolina da Costa, new online technologies such as MOOCs should be seen as a means for educational institutions to improve and widen their ‘classroom’ offerings not as a replacement. However it is now very important for institutions to give an account of the true value they offer to individuals.

Online technologies are useful for acquiring basic knowledge, a minimal repertoire. But classrooms must guide students to the next cognitive and social levels, namely rational thinking, debating with colleagues and applying and recognizing this in real-life situations.

Here Carolina da Costa, Dean of Undergraduate Programs, Insper Institute of Education and Research, Sao Paulo, Brazil, discusses MOOCs:

Online classes have been around for at least four decades but have now received special attention due to the spread of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), which are often considered as the sign that traditional schools, as we know them, could be nearing extinction. Is it true? Critics of MOOCs point out that only motivated students, with a certain degree of autonomy, would benefit from the platform. They also emphasize that these courses merely distribute content without honing the skills. But can’t the same be said of traditional classrooms, which still dominate a large part of higher education institutions?

A new generation of MOOCs, called 2.0, promises to combine content delivery and electronic monitoring, thereby offering students more customized learning. This tool would enable adjustment of content to students’ development level, suggesting bibliographic references and links in accordance with each student’s needs and bringing together students with similar interests. In classrooms with many students, the teacher rarely manages to accompany the development of each student, which is an issue that electronic monitoring could solve. From this perspective, MOOCs 2.0 could be a superior learning experience compared to the traditional classroom, which treats all students homogeneously, without imparting additional costs to the classroom.

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