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MOOCs: The Good, The Bad, The Different

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They are referred to as ‘the most successful and daring experiment in higher education for the last 50 years’ or a ‘game-changer’. Many say they are worthy of great praise for making education truly democratic while others curse them for posing a threat to the traditional learning.

MOOCs, which stands for massive open online courses, is the abbreviation that came to be used just recently but has already engendered hot arguments as to its effectiveness and the transforming potential.

It all started with one professor of computer science at Stanford University, Sebastian Thrun, who decided to make his artificial intelligence coursework available to everybody. The results were amazing: over 160,000 students from all over the world signed up for the course in a short time. Media hype that followed this experiment forced some of the most elite research universities to start offering free higher education to everyone.

The consequences of MOOCs popularity are truly dazzling. Millions of students all over the world are enrolling in online courses inspiring a further shift in the way people look at higher education. Elite colleges are now challenged to look for better ways to attract students and persuade them to pay money, which is not an easy thing to do since MOOCs offer free enrollment, huge availability, no tuition fees and great flexibility.

The experts, however, say that MOOCs are to have major fallout in the future. Their concerns go to the difficulty to assess such form of learning, the unreadiness of many employers to acknowledge the value of such education and the rising resistance from brick-and-mortar universities that have no intention to give up on their comfortable niche.

It is not yet clear how MOOCs are going to evolve in the years to come but their appealing nature to millions of learners is undoubted: for some people it’s a nice opportunity to continue their education and turn it into a lifelong experience, for others it is the only way to get higher education at all.

Bringing in many wonderful opportunities MOOCs also introduced some unprecedented challenges for instructors who now have to adapt to a totally new digital learning environment. What was once a quite intimate classroom discussion now turned into a video message addressing hundreds of thousands of unknown students. Isn’t that thrilling?

Still many educational experts are sure that MOOCs will never replace the traditional form of instruction because they cannot give the personalized guidance that students need to be successful and thriving. MOOCs have given our higher education system the sort of transforming experience it lacked, forcing colleges to review their tried-and-true practices.



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