MOOCS – are they the future for distance education?
There’s a lot of interest in Massive Online Open Courses at the moment like those run by Coursera. These are open online courses that anyone can take for free altho’ they will generally have to pay to take an assessment for a qualification.
There seem to me to be a number of questions that should be looked at before assuming that MOOCS are the way forward for distance education:
1. Dropout rates are high – most MOOCS so far have graduation rates of 10% or less. Proponents argue that this doesn’t matter as participation is open and dropout is unimportant for students who can pick and choose to come and go without penalty of any kind.
2. Access is restricted to those with good internet connections such as the 75% of the UK population who have home broadband. Are MOOCS going to do much for the developing world – say in Africa where access even via smartphones is very low? Or are we dealing with another example of digital exclusion?
3. Are MOOC qualifications going to recognized by employers? In other words what’s the resale value of a MOOC degree going to be? Will assessments be sufficiently valid given the difficulties of identification on line?
4. How are MOOCS going to financed? A well-resourced MOOC will be expensive for institutions – will they make enough just out of assessment fees? Or will they be seen as ‘loss-leaders’ for their main offerings?
5. How will MOOCS build in motivational support for their students apart from online forums? Evidence for the retention effectiveness of forums is hard to come by.
There may be many other questions to be answered before we make MOOCs modish.