MOOCs Will Never Replace Traditional Higher Ed (Opinion)

Ann McClure's picture

There seems to be a trend developing in higher education, and that trend is in favor of Massive Open Online Courses. MOOCs are courses that are often open to the public and are housed within a site on the Internet.

The concept of a MOOC predates the digital age. The intellectual underpinnings of MOOCs date to around the 1960s, when early Internet pioneers discussed massive collaboration via a network of connected computers.

The idea of MOOCs is not new. It is a storied idea enveloped in a deep and rich history. However, this doesn’t mean MOOCs are necessarily conducive to progressive education. Some seem to argue that MOOCs will replace traditional higher education because MOOCs are cheaper to run and can educate more people at once. As with most things in the academy lately, economics rules the conversation. But MOOCs are not generally cheaper as they require a substantial and supported network, MOOC-literate instructors and students willing to relegate their learning to just a computer screen.

There certainly are positive attributes to MOOCs. They can encourage peer-to-peer learning, collaboration across regions and the ability to easily dive into an exciting and new subject. Conversely, they don’t always encourage fruitful or constructive criticism, they include little interaction — if any — with the course leader or teacher and there are huge digital literacy disparities. These attributes often seem tied to the type of MOOC with which one is engaging: xMOOC or cMOOC. The former is a broadcast MOOC and is typically associated with the negative attributes of MOOCs. The latter is a connectivist MOOC and is usually associated with the positive attributes.

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