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Can Online Courses Survive?

Jennifer Birch, EdTech Writer

Jennifer Birch
EdTech Writer

Can Online Courses Survive the next five years? From the time when The New York Times  declared 2012 as the growth year of Massively Open Online Courses (MOOCs), we all have witnessed how the global educational system was transformed by its influence. However, recent data don’t seem to coincide with the publication’s previous declaration. In a 2013 report from the Babson Survey Research Group, MOOC adoption only experienced a growth rate of 6%, compared to 2012’s 11%.

This decline boils down to the issue of profitability. As explained by the research, most learning institutions are not making money out of it, as most students don’t finish the entire course.

From this alarming scenario, what does the future hold for online courses in the next five years?

A ray of light

Of all the controversies circulating MOOCs, technology is showing fresh hope by bringing new and innovative means that could take online education to the next level. These include:

  •  Personalized learning

Google released the Hummingbird algorithm, which is very useful for studying online since it condenses all searches into one account. This method provided an easier way of accessing information to obtain answers. Apple later toyed with the idea on the iPhone 5s’ Touch ID system, which allows users to instantly make purchases from the iTunes and App Store, as well as unlock their devices using fingerprint data. Samsung also integrated this idea to its new Galaxy S5 smartphone, allowing users to access myriads of information using fingerprint scanning technology.

  •  Meta-MOOC

A meta-MOOC involves the approach of an open pedagogy, adapting online courses into other learning environments. An example of this is when Professor Cathy Davidson of Duke University agreed to do an experimental meta-MOOC by teaching a {Coursera} course. She sent a notice to the members of the Humanities, Arts, Science, and Technology Alliance and Collaboration (HASTAC) to provide interested teachers to collaborate. Through Google Hangouts, more than 30 universities successfully made a collaborative research, shared readings, and joint sessions.

Competing factors

In higher education, there seems to be a boatload of concerns and queries, clouding the judgment of professionals whether MOOCs are beneficial or not. Although both sides present a viable argument, understanding each of them is essential in determining the future of online learning.

Factors in decline:

  •  Profitability

For some academic leaders, education is still a business, and their declining confidence on MOOCs can be attributed to issue of profit. In an interview with the  Daily Free Press,  Babson’s Co-Director Elaine Allen said that they are  evaluating if it’s  still viable addition for schools, as they don’t make money out of it. She added, “You’re not paying per course.”

  •  Increased workload for academic leaders

Offering online courses equates to significant labor costs. Aside from the standard working hours spent by professors in schools, a 2013 Chronicle survey  revealed that they add 100 hours more to develop their massive online course. On top of that, at least eight hours a week is allotted while the course is in session.

  •  Lack of student evaluation

Despite being supported by teaching assistants, instructors are unable to provide insightful feedback, especially that there are thousands of students in each course. The lack of face-to-face interaction is also raised, going against the idea that learning is a two-way process.

What drives online education?

  •  Education becomes more affordable

Citing a 2011 Inside Higher Ed survey,  The Atlantic  said that 35% of college admission directors are favoring full pay students, instead of lower-income ones. With massive online courses, students are offered new learning modules, ranging from free to extremely affordable curriculums.

  •  Demand in online degree

Time Magazine, through a report from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), said that employer’s view of students with online bachelor degrees has improved in the past decade. The report revealed that 79% of employers have hired an applicant with an online degree. However, representatives from SHRM believe that the decision of recruiters lies mainly on their familiarity with online learning.

  •  Growth in online education institution

What drives these courses is the fact that they are being offered by the Ivy Leagues — Harvard, Berkeley, and Stanford. These big names alone give enough credence as to how the learning modules can measure students’ capacity.

As William Butler Yeats once said, “education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” MOOCs, then, and will be, vital aspects of the evolving educational industry.

About the Author

Jennifer Birch’s career in tech writing has influenced her to be an EdTech fanatic. She’s passionate in covering its developments and disseminating her knowledge to fellow enthusiasts and educators. Connect with her through Twitter.

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Article Name
Can Online Courses Survive?
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Of all the controversies circulating MOOCs, technology is showing fresh hope by bringing new and innovative means that could take online education to the next level.
Author

Jennifer Birch’s career in tech writing has influenced her to be an EdTech fanatic and a religious follower of Verizon foundation's Thinkfinity.org. She’s passionate in covering its developments and disseminating her knowledge to fellow enthusiasts and educators. Connect with her through Twitter and Google+.
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