MOOC Popularity Rises While Skepticism Remains

MOOC Popularity Rises While Skepticism Remains

Massive open online courses, or MOOC for short, continue to grow in popularity despite some experts still unsure of its effectiveness. Regardless of the sentiment, the movement to free, open courses for the masses gained a significant worldwide following in recent years. It’s sort of amazing to see where the movement has reached after such humble beginnings.

Many cite the foundation for MOOCs emerged from three main generations of what was once called distance learning: correspondence study, multimedia and computer-mediated. With 1969’s Open University in the UK, the initiative grew because of the school’s combination of several support and learning services. With the digital age birthed out of the 1990’s, open courses expanded with CD-ROMs and other advancing information storage. Soon, college courses began offering lectures and texts on online forums like Blackboard and other similar programs.

MOOCs + Learning

MOOCs + Learning

Then in 2008, the modern MOOC era began with Connectivism and Connective Knowledge/2008 (CCK8). The course took inspiration from a University of Manitoba course–incorporating social media, blogging and other online communication and learning platforms to educate students online. Over 160,000 students from 190 countries enrolled and the movement officially became a worldwide phenomenon. Soon, companies like Udacity, Coursera and EdX would join the ranks–taking the trend to previously unheard of levels.

While the movement has boomed since 2008, many education experts remain split on the true power of MOOCs. One side embraces the movement as the next great education boom for the common person. Others, however, are uncertain of how the movement really educates students with such high levels of students failing to complete courses. Regardless of the mixed sentiments, MOOCs continue to gain in enrollment as more companies enter the open education fray.

Beyond the previously stated big three programs, 400 universities–including much of the country’s highest-ranked institutions–offer MOOC versions of their classes. Currently, 2,400 courses are offered through the platforms. In 2014, the top three subjects remained the same as Humanities, Computer Science & Programming and Business & Management topped the most-enrollment list.

When it comes to MOOC providers, Coursera is the current enrollment leader with 10.5 million students enrolled in programs. EdX has 3 million enrolled while Udactiy boasts 1.5 million. Joining the top five is MiriandaX (1 million) and FutureLearn (800,000).

Currently, China may be the best example of what MOOCs could become. Described as a “rising star,” the country evolved the MOOC term beyond large open courses to cover anything related to online learning and its programs. Not only are students taking to the course, but businesses are emerging as well to become the next MOOC breakout business.

Other programs like Khan Academy are noted for leading the open course movement. When it comes to more specific learning platforms, users have several to chose from as well. For example, language learners can take courses like Duolingo’s free program that currently offers 12 languages to date. Or, when it comes to coding students can learn at several destinations like Codecademy. Furthermore, Coursera continues to expand their course offering with classes on career readiness to prepare students with useful job skills for the workplace.

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