MOOC - Massively Open Online Courses, are online courses offered via the Internet and include video lectures, live classes, automated grading methods and at times, peer evaluations. MOOC is a next generation of online education, e-learning and distance learning. A key attribute of MOOC is the large number of students simultaneously enrolled, with peer learning facilitated through social media technologies. Stanford University was a pioneer in starting what could be considered as the first MOOC in mid-2011. Several others like edX, Udacity and Courser a followed suit in 2012, albeit with minor variations. MOOCs offer a plethora of subjects like Science, Mathematics, Technology and Arts.
As an example, one could learn Astronomy while having access to a global network of robotically controlled telescopes from the University of North Carolina, U.S.in the comfort of their home and paying as little as $65. While most of these courses are offered for free, some charge for assessment. In India, the Madras Management Association (MMA) offers a Mini MBA course that includes video classes jointly developed by IIM Ranchi, online tests, collaborative platforms and live classes. Within the first six months of launch, more than one lakh students have enrolled for this program.
The benefits of MOOC include access to world-class content and lectures, minimal or no cost, the ability to learn at your convenience, more importantly, to learn along with participants across the globe. Even then, as the models, authentication and courses are evolving, they have not achieved adequate recognition as a full degree, and the Industry is yet to consider these courses for offering jobs. However, with the investment and rapid evolution of MOOC, the industry will soon be pushed to consider MOOC credits or use them to train employees. Some infrastructure challenges like internet bandwidth hamper adoption of MOOC in India and while registrations are high, the completion rate remains low.
Though there is an argument that MOOCs cannot substitute live classrooms, and learning facilitated by in-person interactions, MOOC can be effectively harnessed by students, faculty and professionals to supplement their learning. Some MOOCs even offer course credits, which can be used for under-graduate/ graduate programs. MOOC is an extremely effective way of improving education offered by traditional institutions. We hope that MOOCs will evolve to offer free and open education for all, unhindered by geographic and economic boundaries!