|CC0 Public Domain by Chris Adamus on Unsplash|
MOOCs are not dead, they are morphing into new areas and development continues. So what have MOOCs ever done for us? Here are a few benefits and opportunities, though far from a comprehensive list.
- If the hype had any benefit it at least put the whole field of online learning in the public spotlight and caught the attention of decision makers in a way that all the previous 15 years of online learning had failed to do. Admittedly it lead to some false conclusions, such as that online learning was invented by Stanford, MIT etc around 2011, but it put the discussion firmly on the agendas of most university boards.
- The criticism that early xMOOCs were simply broadcast education using an instructivist pedagogy has resulted in many institutions trying different methods for increasing interactivity and personalisation at scale. This is still work in progress but many MOOCs are now able to offer more interactive and participatory elements. This experimentation also has relevance to for-credit courses where campus groups can number several hundred students. How can MOOC strategies benefit campus courses?
- MOOCs still have enormous potential to provide greater outreach for institutions and to enhance lifelong learning. What is only now being investigated is that widened participation in higher education requires extensive scaffolding. Allowing local colleges, learning centres, libraries or companies to provide add-on services (both online and on-site) like study support, local discussion groups, local certification etc can enable more people to take a first step into higher education.
- The high profile xMOOCs aren't going away any time soon and keep increasing as more and more universities join the major platforms. Even the criticised instructivist courses have a lot of faithful followers who want to quickly get an overview of a subject at their own pace and without any time-consuming group work or interaction. This idea of the MOOC as an interactive course book may not be pedagogically sophisticated but if it works for thousands of people then that's fine. As long as we have a choice.
- The whole MOOC phenomenon is an investigation into the scalability of education. How massive can a course be? How do we approach mass education and how can we combine scale with engagement and interaction? This is a whole new avenue that is constantly evolving and will go on beyond the usefulness of the term MOOC (already past its sell-by date in my opinion).
- All MOOCs are not the glossy high profile courses seen on the main platforms. The cMOOC variants have also been evolving but completely off the media radar and continue to offer collaborative learning to smaller specialist groups. They may not be massive but there are plenty of innovative courses that have developed from the constructivist/connectivist principles of the early MOOCs. Lessons learned here are also being applied in regular for-credit courses.