MOOCs are Worth the Hype

The Chronicle of Higher Education recently conducted a survey of professors who have taught Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), and found that 79 felt that MOOCs “are worth the hype.” The Chronicle’s survey, which attempted to contact every professor who had ever taught a MOOC, received responses from 103 out of 184 professors.

 he median number of students in the MOOC courses included in the Chronicle’s survey was 33,000, which is perhaps part of the reason two-thirds of the professors surveyed believed MOOCs will ultimately drive down costs at their resident institution. An “overwhelming majority” believes MOOCs will drive down college costs generally.

Among the professors who taught MOOCs, their most frequently cited reason for doing so was “a desire to increase access to higher education worldwide.” Others, according to the Chronicle, did not want to be “left behind.” One professor surveyed stated that he “would rather understand this [MOOCs] at the front end, than be forced into it on the back end.” The Chronicle’s survey included other notable findings:

  • 39 percent of respondents said they hoped to increase their visibility among their colleagues by utilizing MOOCs;
  • 34 percent said they hoped to increase their visibility with the media and general public;
  • Only 6 percent of professors felt teaching MOOCs would increase their income;
  • Thirty-eight percent said they agreed to teach a MOOC to “pick up tips to help improve their classroom teaching.”

MOOCs, the Chronicle found, were time-consuming for professors with other teaching responsibilities. Professors reported spending about 100 hours prepping for their first MOOC, which included recording video lectures. Once a course was up and running, professors reported spending approximately 8 to 10 hours per week on the course, including responding to and interacting with students.

Notably, the Chronicle found, three-quarters of professors offered some sort of certification to students who successfully completed their MOOCs. With the American Council on Education having recently endorsed several Coursera courses, as the Chronicle points out: “it could mean that students who are clever enough to pass a MOOC could redeem their learning for credit toward a traditional degree.”

It’s exactly the type of development that could burst the higher-ed bubble, lowering costs and increasing access for students. The professors who are at the vanguard of the MOOC revolution are credentialing content knowledge, laying the groundwork for a higher-education network through which students can attain various certificates for knowledge mastery from a wide variety of colleges, course providers, and delivery mechanisms.

As the Chronicle found, more than three-quarters of professors believe that MOOCs are worth the hype. And with hundreds of thousands of students signing on, the general public likely agrees. It’s now time to end the cozy accreditation regime that only serves as a barrier to entry to new innovative start-ups and the proliferation of MOOCs as a viable alternative to the rigid bachelor’s degree. And it’s time for employers to see a system of knowledge credentialing as a meaningful way to equip students with the skills they need to be successful in the workplace.

Posted by: Lindsey Burke

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