Massive Online Open Course (MOOC) has gained popularity in recent times with the rise of various platforms like Coursera, edX, Udacity among several others. Looking back, MOOCs’ were first introduced in 20061 with the aim of providing access to education materials to interested learners all over the globe. One of the primary aims of MOOC was to enable individuals, who were unable to access higher education materials, economic difficulties or otherwise, to acquire educational training comparable with the best educational institutions.
Having been part of the Pfp courses for about three months now, I realize that my understanding of MOOC’s has grown. Let’s talk about the positives of MOOC’s to begin with and how it adheres to some aspects of critical pedagogy. To begin with, the structure of most MOOC’s is geared towards learning through experiences (I will talk about my experience in taking classes on Marketing, Economics and Statistics. I’m sure others will talk about their fields). Although, these “experiences” tend to be online and self paced, they do teach one the merits of problem based learning. Since MOOC’s condense a semester’s worth of materials in a few weeks, participants are set strict deadlines to learn statistical techniques and are provided various resources to make their expedite their learning. Furthermore, MOOC’s also utilize the power of the crowd by encouraging students to “crowdsource their learning”. The existence of student forums not only makes learning fun, but it also teaches one the need to collaborate in an increasingly competitive world.
Having said this, we must now talk about the limitations of MOOCs. The limitations of MOOCs arise partly from its advantages. With unlimited access, one bears the cost of low or zero personal interaction with the instructor. Students are mostly forced to seek help from Teaching Assistants. Do not get me wrong. I think that TA’s do a wonderful job, but the lack of interaction with the interaction may be undesirable. In a world where educators talk about the need to tailor educational experiences according to each student’s learning style, MOOC’s appear to have taken a step back in time.
At the time MOOC’s started, the problem that it wanted to address was to enable learners to access educational resources. MOOCs have achieved part of their goals. Society has undoubtedly gained from the increased access to educational resources. However, the way forward for MOOCs would is to focus on the quality of training specifically, trying to include elements of critical pedagogy in order to benefit individual learners and thereby the society as a whole.