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A rundown on MOOCs – Part I

With rapid rates of technological advancement, we are more connected, networked and we have more tools at our disposal than ever before. We just have to dive in and explore what we need and want, and opt out of what does not serve us. Are we ready?

The lowdown on MOOCs
MOOCs have been badged as a major disruptor in the learning landscape. This is because they lower barriers of entry for those who want to access university level materials and learn. The type of access they offer was previously unheard of:

“… more than half of the successful students of the first cohort of the Stanford machine learning course on Coursera were under 18 years old and a significant chunk of them came from emerging countries.”

If you are not familiar with the term, MOOCs refer to Massive Open Online Courses.

Using providers such as Coursera, FutureLearn, Udacity, Iversity and edX, to name a few, top universities make some of their learning materials available online to everyone. The benefits of MOOCs are that they are flexible as well as accessible. You can enroll for courses alongside other commitments, fulltime jobs, family responsibilities, and you can enroll from any geography. There are typically no entry requirements.

MOOCs are growing at a rapid rate. This is no surprise, because to participate is mostly free. They take what was previously the preserve of a relatively elite few, and offer it up for consumption to whoever is interested and diligent enough to roll up their sleeves. MOOCs are symbolic of flexible, accessible and democratic learning.

Since their emergence around 10 years ago, MOOCs have been sophisticating in delivery. From rather simple camera recordings in classrooms, MOOCs now steer learning on a wide variety of topics through dedicated online learning portals. They take you through course materials using video lectures and quizzes, supplementing input with additional reading and online chat forums. Most providers also offer opportunities to pay a nominal fee for a course certificate, which can be attached to your LinkedIn profile.

Although MOOCs do not carry the full kudos and credibility of a traditional university degree, who could not but be impressed by an individual who has the nous to seek out and undertake learning to enhance and enrich what they do? Some would go as far as to say that unless we take responsibility for our own learning, through offerings like MOOCs, we may be left behind in the impending Fourth Industrial Revolution, where the lines between physical, digital and biological spheres will become increasingly blurred. Learners, or employees, can empower themselves now, thanks to the technological advancements of our time. They can chart and engage their own learning across the course of their careers (plural because most of us will have more the one). This replaces a focus that tipped more to the needs and provisions of employers, and the scope and approvals of the set roles on offer.

So will MOOCs really disrupt learning as we know it? How are organisations responding to MOOCs? What are some of the challenges?

The answers to these questions will be the subject of ‘A rundown on MOOCs – Part II.’

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