The era of the MOOC has begun. From Cisco, MIT, to Stanford, it seems that everyone in the higher education space is looking for more information about MOOCs. In 2012 alone, the MOOC content provider edX enrolled over 370,000 students in their courses. Coursera was founded in January 2012, and has already “reached more than 1.7 Million” students
So what is a MOOC and why should you care?
A MOOC is a known as a massive open online course. Easiest way to think of a MOOC is to envision an online college course that you took at Anywhere State College, but instead of the enrollment being limited to 50-100 students, or even limited to students at the same institution, this course is open to anyone who wants to take it. While there are many different offerings within the MOOC space, they all basically share a couple key components; open-enrollment and scalability. The idea of open enrollment means that regardless of where the participants are located and regardless of previous educational experience, anyone is allowed to participate within each course. The scalability means that the number of enrollments is typically endless; however, there are many MOOCs that do have a cap on enrollments, but do offer multiple sections of the courses to allow for more enrollments.
I could bore you to death going over all the research and literature written about MOOCs and other learning management systems (LMS), but the point of the matter is that education is a very stagnated industries. With all of the technological changes that have happened in the last 25 years, what has changed in education in the last 10 years? 20 years? 50 years? Not much, especially in higher-ed.
We all love the idea of Wikipedia; immediate access to information about any topic for free. The idea of allowing anyone with knowledge about a certain topic to collaborate and contribute to a common goal has proven to be successful time and time again. Take the excerpt from Malcolm Gladwell’s book, “Outliers,” where he describes the enormous capital investment that Microsoft backed Encarta with compared to the idea of an open, community driven encyclopedia. The rest of the story is history. Does anyone frequent any other online resource for information more than Wikipedia since its inception? Powerful stuff.
Where MOOCs really have the ability to delineate themselves from the typical eLearning or online Learning Portals is this same mentality that made Wikipedia great. Gleaning off of what made Wikipedia so popular, open-source platforms like Canvas can be used to create interactive live courses in the same mold of a regular MOOC with the exception being that these course are built through contributors and collaborators from all over the globe. A French history professor at the Sarbonne could create a course where students truly learn about the French Revolution, rather than just reading about it in Wikipedia. Or a medical student can create a study group with his peers that can be used to study for the MCATs or the boards at any hospital. An open source platform that can be used by collaborators from all over the globe to create interactive learning courses based upon a common core curriculum and standard. With this change in paradigm, the opportunities are really endless. The only limitation is our own ability be creative and to devote ourselves as a community to further driving education. This is very palatable as Wikipedia continues to show us.
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