MOOCs: Massively Learning Important
MOOCs are Massive Open Online Courses. Most likely the acronym was developed without a marketing person at the table, because it’s probably not the best for advertising to massive audiences, but the MOOC idea is internationally big. The goal of MOOCs is to provide free and low-cost online education to the world, and to do it by offering courses from highly accredited places… universities, such as Stanford, Harvard, Berkeley, Duke, and others. The key is that anyone, anywhere, can learn anything from some of the best academic places and resources in the world—do it online—and get credit for it. And, like any course of learning followed in the traditional manner, MOOCs can be a way to earn certification, or even a degree—and from elite learning establishments. This opens the door for what most of us originally foresaw as the Internet’s biggest role—delivering learning with the best resources available everywhere and to everybody.
The implications here are huge. Today, the majority of the technology in the hands of users, other than in a very few countries, is on mobile devices—phones. A phone/smartphone is the computer, and the luxury of owning a laptop, tablet, and multiple mobile devices isn’t even a dream. One phone, in the hands of someone in the furthest reaches of the bandwidth world is the only connection to the rest of the world—and to education/learning. With MOOCs, the possibility of someone holding a mobile device—a phone—taking a course from Stanford University and getting accepted to a program of study—and possibly a degree—is the sort of thing that makes us and MOOC visionaries smile. It is now possible to deliver education and learning resources to a “massive” classroom, and not just to a small auditorium in a university setting.
Today, there are those who would say, “Well, everyone will have a degree, and degrees will become worthless.” But, that’s a very narrow point of view, and shallow understanding of the MOOC concept. Many MOOC students may not choose to go the credential route, but rather look for courses that are of interest, and that share a “how to” approach. Some, though, will enter the accreditation process, and if the required course-line of study is accomplished successfully, those students are entitled to and should be awarded course completion credentials, or a diploma. If that learning accomplishment can happen on a mobile device with someone sitting under a tree somewhere rather than in an elite campus seat, well that’s what we’re talking about! There should be a MOOC medal attached to that kind of online learning. Just think, too, that there can be thousands in thousands of places learning along with that one learner under the tree—at the same time.
MOOCs have also gained the attention of Google. Google has teamed up with EdEx, a non-profit to launch MOOC.org in 2014 with hopes of building a “YouTube for MOOCs.” Wondering if Google’s interest and influence will rename MOOCs to something more appealing to a mass audience? It’s possible, but if not, it will certainly help organize more international education attention. And that’s a good thing. With about three quarters of the world without Internet access, MOOCs may drive new endeavors into connecting the entire world—and that would be a massively important accomplishment.