MOOCs: The Other Side of the Story

Disruptive change in education is never easy or without controversy and the growing Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) trend is no exception. While many are touting the benefits of MOOCs in equalizing access to education, scaling innovation (and the reach of excellent teachers) and addressing the ways students actually live and work, the trend is not without its detractors.

In today’s Daily Edventure, I’m sharing a recent opinion piece from The Guardian with the menacing descriptor of MOOCs as “…an Avalanche that Might Just Get Stopped.” The piece points out that, while MOOCs are gaining steam in the US and elsewhere, the innovation hasn’t made much headway in the UK. The author cites recent efforts in California to allow students to get credit from public universities by taking online courses from private providers, a move that has sparked a great deal of debate about privatization of education.

According to author and University of California Professor James Vernon, studies have shown the “uneven effects” of online classes, particularly for underperforming and disadvantaged students. Says Vernon, “The promise of MOOCs to improve access and democratise knowledge is a chimera,“ and he concludes that, “there really is no replacement for face-to-face interaction between academics and students.“

Time will tell if Professor Vernon’s concerns are well founded, but in the meantime, millions of students seem to be benefitting from this new way to access learning. What do you think? Can MOOCs work, with the support of real relationships between teachers and students? Let me know @anthonysalcito.

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