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MOOCs - Why they may not be for you

in Education on July 10, 2014 . 0 Comments.

The Massively Online Open Course has been getting a great deal of attention over the past few months. These MOOCS (as opposed to the Mooks) have been increasingly held up as example of changing trends in the education sphere by commentators, including the Economist magazine in a recent article on changes in the higher education sector. 

In it, the magazine states how some educators are seeing the traditional system of higher education as overly expensive and incompatible with the flexibility required from modern learners. These are sentiments that we at ADL certainly agree with - we find many of our students turn to us rather than traditional universities and courses precisely because of the combination of price and convenience that we can offer.

The MOOC is one answer to developments in student demand and technology. It has several great things going for it that attract students.  By far the most obvious one is the cost - they're often delivered for free.  They're also available to student’s world wide and some of them even enjoy the backing of world renowned universities such as Stanford and the University of Amsterdam.

And they're available to people worldwide.  Indeed, many developing countries, like Brazil, are using the availability of courses such as these to provide an alternative to investing heavily in the traditional structures of higher education that are now proving so burdensome of the state and students of western countries.

But MOOCS aren't a one size fits all category and come with some serious drawbacks. The big one comes from the fact that most of these courses are free. For starters many of them are not tested or examined in any way such that a proper assessment of the students learning can be made.  This means that no accreditation or qualification is possible meaning that, if the goal is to get a certificate of some sort professionally, many MOOCs are unsuitable.

This, however, isn't the case with all MOOCs.  Some charge like regular courses and others might offer an opportunity to have one's course certified at the end for a fee.  However in both those cases, the initial argument of "MOOCs are free" is undermined.  As with everything else you get what you pay for. 

However the big weakness with the MOOC is also its strength – the sheer scale.  They're "Massively" for a reason, with a single MOOC enrolling hundreds or thousands of students on a course.  In many ways, they represent an industrial revolution for education where, instead of one lecturer addressing thirty students, you now have one lecturer addressing three hundred, or three thousand.  Everything is geared towards mass participation with the MOOC, up to and including the dropout rates (that can be up to 90% in many cases). 

At ADL we certainly appreciate what the MOOC is trying to do, and we see it having a great part to play in the future education of the world, but there has been and always will be a place for the smaller, more specialized group and service, which is what we offer.  The same scale that allows MOOC's to reach out to millions globally makes them individually inflexible.  Most of all, in the sheer numbers of the massive courses we believe something very important is missing - the essential link between teacher and student that is at the heart of all good educational experiences.

That's why we put such emphasis at ADL into the quality of our tutors.  We believe it's essential to draw upon people who are not just great teachers, but practical members of their industries, ensuring that our courses and our students benefit from the insights of experts who know best about their fields. It's why we offer unlimited tutor support on our courses, and encourage our students to make the best use of this invaluable resource, and why we make sure that our experts assess their pupils progress through a programme of assignments through the course of their programme, helping to deliver the learning experience that will help you as a student truly master the online course you want to learn. 

The prognosis for the traditional university isn't great.  With soaring tuition fees and slashed state spending, the next few years are going to force new visions for the future of education coming to the fore.  The MOOC is but one, and ADL’s tried and tested method is another.  What's yours?

Tags: Education, ADLLast update: September 19, 2017


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