Massive hype surrounded massive open online courses (MOOCs). They were going to revolutionize higher education, offering college-level courses to anyone with a computer and Internet access as a no-cost alternative to heading to campus.
Of course, MOOCs are not all that, but they can be a valuable tool, according to Justin Pope, chief of staff at Longwood University, Farmville, VA. Pope argued in a guest column for MIT Technology Review that colleges and universities just have to figure out the proper way to use MOOCs, pointing to the all-MOOC master’s program in computer science at Georgia Tech as a first step.
“It’s not clear how well such programs can be replicated in other fields, or whether the job market will reward graduates with this particular Georgia Tech degree,” he wrote. “But the program offers evidence that MOOCs can expand access and reduce costs in some corners of higher education.”
One area of promise is new ways of thinking when it comes to teaching. Pope reported that current or former teachers made up 28% of the students taking 11 MOOCs offered by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology last spring.
“This is particularly promising because teachers pass what they learn on to their own students. When they make use of edX and other resources in their classrooms, they multiply the effect,” he said. “As Coursera moves explicitly into teacher training, its classes could have as much impact by reaching a few hundred teachers as they would with thousands of other students.”