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The Mindset Of Educators Behind Online Education

Ever taken a course on Coursera, edX, or Udacity? I have. Even before that, I was a frequent user of MIT OpenCourseWare. From the experience I gathered while using these resources or taking these massive online open courses, aka MOOCs, is that most people enroll to learn, formal credit means very little. Hence, when I read an article by Gregory Ferenstein of TechCrunch giving undue focus on MOOC professors’ belief that their students don’t deserve any formal credit, I think there are things to be clarified.

MOOC survey result

The statistic above came out from a survey conducted by The Chronicle. The online survey questionnaire was sent to 184 professors; 103 of them responded. And, in the process, some interesting revelations came out.

The respondents reported a number of reasons answering the question – why they MOOC? The most cited reason was a desire to increase access to higher education worldwide. Some of the professors joined because they wanted to increase their reach, but they were hardly expecting any pay rise. Very few professors were obliging to requests from superiors. That means, most of the educators on-board were true believers.

Some of the professors also found the experience of teaching MOOCs a mindset changer. Thirty-eight percent of those surveyed said that they wanted to pick up tips to help improve their classroom teaching. Michael J. Cima, a professor of materials science and engineering at MIT, found that the learning outcomes of his MOOC were better than his on-campus course.

Nearly half of the professors said that their online classes were as rigorous academically as their offline counterparts. That means, if you are out there to learn, you will get the best opportunity to learn. And, I believe that is what most of the people taking these courses have in mind. Now comes the question, is the experience as complete as on-campus courses? If you are taking a course on mathematics or programming where you can learn through online lectures and self-practice, and your competence can be tested through automated online exams to the most part then the experience is as fulfilling as an on-campus course. If you are taking an engineering course where hands on experience are an integral part and where students need individual attention, the online experience is not complete.

Hence, if you ask me whether a mathematics course should receive college credit, then I would say yes. But, courses on electrical or mechanical engineering should not be equivalent to on-campus credit bearing courses. I guess, this philosophy was reflected on the response of the professors too. About 72 percent of the professors said that students who succeed in their MOOC don’t deserve formal credit, and about a quarter of respondents voted for formal credit.

Overall 66 percent of the respondents felt that MOOCs are worth the hype, though they take a toll on their time. Around 45 percent had the belief that MOOCs will reduce the cost of college education in general, thus making education more accessible.

Source: The Chronicle

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