Updated: Dec 4, 2020
Credit CC 2.0 WOCinTech Chat
Since 2012, all over the world, many universities (including prestigious American universities) offer free online courses, called "Massive Open Online Courses" (MOOCs). Registration is done online and is free. These courses are available on different platforms, or directly on the website of the universities, in different languages. (https://www.coursera.org/ , https://www.edx.org/, France Université Numérique, FutureLearn)
The aim of these courses is "the democratization of knowledge". The idea that information is everywhere and knowledge is at our fingertips.
MOOCs are open to everyone, regardless of the geoposition, hence the term "Massive". The number of participants is unlimited. The only requirement for subscription is to have an internet connection. Anyone in need of a training in a variety of fields is welcome.
The fields and subjects are numerous and one can study regardless of its level; beginner or advanced. The courses may be useful if one wants to specialize in a specific field, learn and discover new things, for personal improvement or to meet a professional need. In fact, MOOCs can be an added value in one’s CV.
How does it work? A MOOC brings together a lecturer, learners, course material and support. The lecturer is video recorded while delivering his lecture, live or made available in the form of short videos on the platforms. A forum is also available so that lecturers and learners can exchange. An assessment is usually offered to learners in the form of questionnaires.
MOOCs require a personal investment though, as the setup is different from a classic classroom face to a teacher, which increased the risk of dropouts. The duration of a MOOC can vary from 1 to 6 months.
Anyone can take the courses everywhere and at any time. Many courses are self-paced, meaning that one can take them throughout its duration without following the lecturer’s timetable. One is free to start and drop out at any moment if not interested. There are no binding agreements.
It is important to note that MOOCs do not substitute a training at the University. They are a valuable way of getting good quality knowledge, but without a formal recognition from the Universities involved. Many MOOCs offer the possibility to obtain a certificate of completion, which however, is not equivalent to a diploma. Usually, such certificates are delivered against a small fee. Coursera usually charges 49 $, FutureLearn has a formula where they work with partners to sponsor courses, so that all learners can earn a free certificate and access for as long as it’s on FutureLearn.
However, not everyone is in favor of this “creative commons” knowledge. In fact MOOCs raise educational and economical debates.
Economical because the creation of a MOOC is very expensive, it requires a huge amount of time and money. So the courses being free, some Universities and lecturers do not encourage them and do not take part in their development.
Educational because some MOOC-skepticals believe that students will eventually desert classrooms and the campuses will be emptied because of this distance-learning. Moreover, these same people believe that it is impossible to learn from a distance and that a physical support is necessary for a student to carry out his/her studies.
But is it true? Every day, we learn new things on the Internet. When we read articles online or interact on forums as an example.
Maybe what in reality scares some people finally is an education accessible for everyone. An education that would no longer be elitist but where everyone, no matter where he lives and his economic resources could study. Education for all, free and online.