Almost overnight, massive open online courses (MOOCs) went from idea stage to being the next big thing in higher education. While Sebastian Thrun’s first MOOC attracted an impressive 160,000 students in 2011, interest grew to 35 million individuals who signed up for at least one of the free online courses in 2015.
The blemish on the success story has always been completion rates, but MOOC providers also have had to show they are worth the investment. That pressure has led MOOC platforms to shift emphasis to job training and charging students for credentials.
That’s troubling to author Jonathon Keats, who suggested in a column for Wired that the real goal of MOOCs should be to interest people in everything.
“The technology underlying MOOCs—as well as their reach—provides a solid platform for broadening people’s interests,” Keats wrote. “MOOCs need to be linked across disciplines, with recommendation engines like those employed by Netflix and YouTube to entice students to compulsively take up new interests. Completion rates need to be de-emphasized in favor of curiosity quotients.
“Vocation training is just one thin layer of education,” he added. “For edutech to be worthy of its name—and for everything to truly change—MOOC platforms need to make every mind as expansive as the World Wide Web.”