Higher education has not always been known for fast adjustments to technology, but with MOOCs, massive online open courses, many colleges are embracing the hot new trend.
Only two years after several large MOOC providers opened up shop – Coursera, edX and Udacity – the free online classes are becoming more and more popular. In fact, every college that is in US News and World Report’s top rankings is embracing MOOCs. Also, two of the biggests public university systems – California State University and State University of New York – are also about to start offering the free classes.
Last month, the University of Chicago was the last top 10 university in the US to offer MOOCs. The free online classes are one of the biggest trends in education today. MOOCs typically have thousands of students in each class around the globe, and for little to no cost.
At the University of Chicago, the college will offer two classes with Coursera. The first will be about global warming and the other will be on asset pricing theory. It is not yet known when the classes will begin.
MOOCs offer most universities two major benefits, according to the deputy provost for research at the University of Chicago. First, MOOCs help the school to offer the very latest educational experience in the world. This helps the student to stay abreast of educational trends. Also, universities have a commitment to allow people around the globe to enjoy higher education at as low a cost as possible.
Universities also benefit from having their classes and instructors in front of thousands of people around the world. One professor with one class can teach many times more students than in a regular classroom setting. Eventually some of those online MOOC students will pursue degrees and certificates through the university, which is how the schools are often able to turn a profit with the online classes.
In New York, SUNY is going to also partner with Coursera to offer more online courses on its campuses. This will give students the chance to earn about ⅓ of their degree online if they wish.
SUNY and the University of Chicago are some of the biggest players to enter the MOOC market. Harvard University and MIT also are deeply involved in MOOCs; they partnered last year to create edX, which has enrolled 900,000 students in its MOOCs. Professors from Stanford put together the two other large providers of MOOCs – Udacity and Coursera.
Some are not totally convinced that MOOCs are the wave of the future. Harvard was under fire in recent months by professors because of how the college managed their MOOCs. The current system uses HarvardX, which is an on campus effort that helps instructors to deliver their classes online.
But earlier this year, dozens of faculty at Harvard wrote to the dean with worries about how the school was aggressively promoting MOOCs. They want more discussion about edX and how to ensure that students do not cheat, as well as to monitor other ethical concerns. The university work work this summer to think of how to improve the oversight of MOOC learning at Harvard.
Some other schools are using an approach like Harvard’s in the development of their MOOCs. They are not allowing professors to just make minor changes to their classes and putting them online. These universities are coming up with plans to maximize the outreach of the classes and university. Some of these efforts can eventually lead to international exposure for the schools and more income as students pursue full degrees in their field of study.