The rise of MOOCs

February 27, 2013 § 2 Comments


Credit: Giulia Forsythe (CC)

Credit: Giulia Forsythe (CC)

I believe that e-distance learning is one of the most amazing things that technology can provide us. And last year, when start-ups such as Udacity and Coursera emerged, it gained a new shape. They began to gather courses from elite universities in United States and attracted thousands of students worldwide. Their goal is to offer free online classes, for anyone interested in learning. This new format of education have been calling academics’ attention and received an acronym: MOOCs, for Massive Open Online Courses.

But what exactly are MOOCs? Why are they so mainstream, and how do they differ from previous e-learning experiences? Education specialist Dave Cormier made a video to explain how the network world may provide more than a course and experience: it boosts connectivity and collaboration.

New media also offers many possibilities of changes in traditional models. Just look at the press, photography, television and music. When virtual formats replaced analogical ones, new business models were created. In the same way, technological innovations and the Internet establish new formats of classes which are attracting thousands of prospective students, who would hardly have the chance to enroll in an elite University, such as Harvard, Stanford or Berkeley. Within MOOCs, students may use many different kinds of digital tools and environments available. If they want, they just watch lectures and do the tests. But that’s where it becomes interesting: MOOCs are not regular courses. They stimulate students to interact between each other through social networks – such as Facebook or Twitter – or develop collective, peer-to-peer assignments were students can gather information on live chats or Google Hangouts. Every activity is part of the learning process.

Those digital tools and innovations are already altering learning experiences as we know. And as MOOCs multiply worldwide, perhaps regular courses at Universities might change as well, for good. Besides, there are still many unanswerable questions, most of them concerning the effectiveness of learning, teaching and assessments. In this blog, you will find my own perspective of MOOCs as a student and also as a researcher. If you are taking a MOOC class too, please, feel free to contribute as well. Tips, suggestions and experiences will be always encouraged here.


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