For many years, many American colleges were very suspicious of online learning, especially MOOCs, which are massively open online courses that can teach thousands of students at one time. Some of the most recent entries into this space of free or low cost online courses are such entities as Udacity, Coursera and EdX. Millions of people around the world are studying science, engineering, and humanities online by some of the best professors in the world, all without paying and without stopping work.
Now, some of America’s elite universities are on the cutting edge of the MOOCs movement. One of them is Stanford University; the university has appointed its very first provost of online learning.
Stanford is trying to improve education and to determine how to do its main mission better of educating both undergraduate and graduate students. Through the use of technology such as MOOCs, the idea seems to be to be able to grow their student body down the road. The focus largely is to attract more students to online graduate programs at Stanford, as many masters programs are frequently having online courses.
Another concept that Stanford is experimenting with by offering these large online classes is that of producing material that can be licensed and distributed to other universities. It is somewhat of an evolution of the textbook concept. Instead of faculty writing textbooks and putting them into use at other colleges, it is possible that video and online material could be an excellent way to transfer information to other colleges.
Stanford plans to stay involved long term in the MOOC effort because it is an effective way to distribute knowledge from their campus to the world. This serves two purposes: to help people become educated anywhere, and number two, to attract people to become Stanford students in the future in other programs.
Some experts have feared that MOOCs could possibly threaten the existence of traditional campuses. However, others feel that MOOCs could actually become extensions of the regular university. MOOCs could allow universities to create a huge new market for their services. Because they are able to reach more students and grow their student body, this could possibly lead to lower costs for all students.