Posted on June 6, 2013 by Annie Do.
Let me first say that when I heard MOOCs were on the rise, I thought it was a very bad idea. The first time I ever took an online course at a local community college one summer, I despised it— it was taking too much of my effort and motivation to sit down and watch a lecture online when I could have been enjoying the beautiful summer sun with my friends on the beaches of California. Said course was a hybrid Intro to Biology course—I watched the lectures online and attended lab at 8:30 am. On the very first day, my professor kindly praised us for our bravery for tackling an online course during the summer—according to him, online courses take twice as much discipline as their traditional counterparts because one actually has to sit down of their own accord and watch the lecture online instead of going to class. I found it particularly difficult because I could not ask questions during lecture—if I had not had any face-to-face time with my professor during labs, I would have been behind on my course work.
MOOCs, however, are an interesting approach to online learning—they make it seem worth the effort. First of all, they’re free, so you have nothing to lose. They make high quality education that costs a fortune in person accessible to anyone with an internet connection. They are a breakthrough in distance education. But the most interesting thing about MOOCs is the concept of applying crowd-sourcing technology to studying.
A New York Times article noted that Professor Mitchell Duneier at Princeton was provided more feedback on his ideas about sociology than ever before. Students would use online forums to ask questions, share ideas, and have debates with each other. They can vote comments up or down to flag them for the professor’s eyes, so he knows which important ideas, concerns, questions or confusions are getting the most attention. MOOCs opened the door for international discussions about important theories- an amazing way to expand the curriculum of a course. To make up for the lack of a seminar tone, Professor Duneier created chat rooms for students to join and engage more deeply in the materials.
This is an interesting idea worth pursuing—especially now that the American Council on Education has made credit recommendations for five MOOCs. In the near future, the first cohort of students who have taken these courses will begin to ask for certificates and university credits. I am excited to see what will come of these efforts, especially because two of the courses come from my school, the University of California, Irvine. Will other universities recognize and accept ACE CREDIT recommendations? As a student, I would be ecstatic if universities were embracing courses from other institutions- that would give me the opportunity to learn from different teaching styles outside of UC Irvine. I am excited for the next development in this field!
Annie Do is an Undergraduate Student at the University of California, Irvine and served as a Spring 2013 Intern with the Office of the Under Secretary.