Reactions to MOOCs in Higher Education
In many circles as soon as one mentions the word MOOCs, lines of division get immediately drawn and opinions are divided along 2 opposite ends of the spectrum. The typical views range from those who believe in MOOCs and those who are completely against MOOCs, and thus this often creates a somewhat limited space for discussion and engagement. One thing is certain; MOOCs challenge universities’ conventional societal roles as the ‘sole providers’ of knowledge and credentials.
Others make claims that MOOCs do not change the status quo of Higher Education (HE) instead they are in a league of their own as they are playing a different game entirely. Therefore rather than argue for or against a single perspective on MOOCs, my proposition is that it may be useful to imagine their potential.
For example most MOOCs are guided by the principles and ethos of inclusion, mass participation, collaboration in generating knowledge and distributed expertise for those who pitch in. Unlike in the classroom were most learning is teacher-centred, in a MOOC environment the idea is that there is peer to peer sharing to develop autonomous channels of information flow and this removes the typical notion of top-down information flow from the expert usually the university professor to the students.
Nonetheless MOOCs. in many developing contexts such as South Africa, continue to face many challenges and do not necessarily increase ‘access’ to education for many disadvantaged people. Hence thus far MOOCs are reported to have a very low completion rate and this is due to various reasons. A recent qualitative study by Miligan, Margaryan, and Littlejohn (2013) suggests that confidence, prior experience in a MOOC were important determinants of engagement in a MOOC. Some students find the MOOC environment frustrating because they do not see the inherent value of learning through the network. This suggests that open access to education has many challenges and pedagogical practices of MOOCs need to be further investigated for a better understanding of how a positive learning experience can be created. Moreover access to learning technology, adequate infrastructure, language and cultural backgrounds continue to pose challenges for MOOCs.
However I believe that a completely different way of thinking about education is necessary for succeeding in a MOOC environment, in other words there is a need to imagine MOOCs as an entirely new learning experience that should not be compared to learning in the traditional classroom.