Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs)

  • Dr. Thazin Lwin (Professor)

What is a MOOC?
A Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) is an online course aimed at unlimited participation and open access via the web. Many MOOCs provide interactive user forums to support community interactions among students, professors, and teaching assistants. MOOCs are a recent and widely researched development in distance education which were first introduced in 2008 and emerged as a popular mode of learning in 2012. The first MOOCs emerged from the Open Educational Resources (OER) movement. MOOCs from private, non-profit institutions emphasized prominent faculty members and expanded existing distance learning offerings (e.g., podcasts) into free and open online courses.
As MOOCs have evolved, there appear to be two distinct types: those that emphasize the connectivist philosophy, and those that resemble more traditional courses. To distinguish the two, Stephen Downes proposed the term “cMMOC” and “xMOOC”. He considers these so-called cMOOCs to be more “creative and dynamic” than the current xMOOCs, which he believes “resemble television shows or digital textbooks”.
The new term MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) has immediately attracted the masses even though it is just another label for a diversity of different online learning scenarios and methodologies that were already developed and implemented many years before.
Nowadays, different types of MOOCs (so called cMOOCs and xMOOCs) are discussed but the focus is still on the masses, technology and promised innovations that are not easy to discover.
A MOOC is a model of educational delivery that is to varying degrees, massive, open, online, and a course. Most MOOCs are structured similar to traditional online higher education courses in which students watch lectures, read assigned material, participate in online discussions and forums, and complete quizzes and test on the course material.
A massive open online course (MOOC) is a model for delivering learning content online to any person who wants to take a course, with no limit on attendance. Much of the attention given to MOOCs focuses on their ability to reach millions of learners worldwide. However, the on-campus impacts have gone far beyond moving lectures from the podium to the laptop or mobile device. Faculty members are improving materials and activities in their classes, crafting better assessments to measure student learning, and experimenting with new pedagogies to increase engagement and learning. The extent to which MOOCs have led faculty members to increase on-campus student access to online learning materials. These materials help reinforce what students learn in class and let them review difficult material.
One of the most exciting impacts of MOOCs on teaching at Duke University has been faculty members rethinking their assumptions about how students learn. One student said:
* “I think it was a great idea to give this kind of course!”
* “I love writing but lost the habit of it and thanks to your class!”
* “I think it’s a course that can help many people in different ways.”
* “My peers in the course gave me very good constructive feedback, and I learned to improve.”
Duke University’s MOOCs initiative has had an impact in reaching global audiences, increasing access to educational resources, and spurring on the development of new educational technologies and business models. Duke University plans to continue providing its faculty the expansive opportunities provided by MOOCs and other potentially innovative tools and ideas. In this way, faculty members can continue stimulating the campus conversation about new possibilities in teaching and new ways to improve learning.
Online learning environments on campus or at a distance- and the policy issues that affect them have come to the forefront of higher education. As policy-makers consider how to dramatically increase the percentage of the population with a postsecondary degree or credential within significant, long-term resource constraints, online and blended learning options dominate the discourse. A rapid enrollment growth in e-learning courses and programs signals that students and the public at large also see online and blended options as increasingly attractive.
The MOOC Guide suggests the possible challenges for cMOOCs:
(1) Relying on user-generated content can create a chaotic learning environment
(2) Digital literacy is necessary to make use of the online materials
(3) The time and effort required from participants may exceed what students are willing to commit to a free online course
(4) Once the course is released, content will be reshaped and reinterpreted by the massive student body, making the course trajectory difficult for instructors to control
(5) Participants must self-regulate and set their own goals
(6) Language and translation barriers
These general challenges in effective MOOC development are accompanied by criticism by journalists and academics. MOOCs have been criticized for a perceived lack of academic rigor as well as the monetization strategies adopted by providers.
MOOCs and the Future of Higher Education
MOOCs could help students who are at Universities, especially in lower income communities where they cannot afford extra tutorials. But, because of the different approaches in education, especially in developing countries, there is not encouragement to take or promote MOOCs, or other online assistance. Now that Smart Phones are in the hands of more people, in many countries, and MOOCs are also available on Smart Phones, it should become more popular. The feedback especially via Facebook, should help the comments to be country sensitive, because what works in one country does not always work in another, but with many people in the group, they can make things work, or help to make things work.
A closer look at higher education in Asia and the Pacific reveals that more and more people are becoming aware of the importance of attending university and getting at least an undergraduate degree, which increases the chances of getting employed. The five best MOOC providers are Coursera, EdX, Udacity, Udemy, and Carnegie Mellon Open Learning Initiative.
In 2025 and beyond we will use mobile, digital technology to learn. The classroom will be in our hands. We will have access to knowledge, lessons, and learning technology anywhere, anytime. We will learn in the moment. Our learning will include immersive, multi-sensory experiences that simulate reality. Human educators will sometimes work as our learning coaches, more essential to the processes of learning than as holders of knowledge. Universities will be places for hands-on education and collaboration. Perhaps we should run a MOOC on how the internet benefits developing countries, or how Smart Phones now makes online and even distant learning possible, and why these are possible, why is still not attracting more learners.
Not only the high drop-out rates have raised the question of quality for MOOCs and several international conferences had a special focus on MOOCs. On the other hand MOOCs have prepared the future path for opening up education. Thus, MOOQ (Quality of Massive Open Online Courses) has started to develop a common Quality Reference Framework for improving, assessing and comparing the quality of MOOCs in the future. There is no MOOCs in Myanmar. In Myanmar, we need to collaborate and cooperate with local and international institutions and organizations.
We will make MOOCs better !

Dr. Thazin Lwin (Professor)
Yangon University of Distance Education

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