Could 2017 Be the Year of the MOOC?

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Massive Open Online Courses or MOOCs have been given a bad rap, with low completion rates suggesting that they aren’t living up to the hype that propelled them onto the scene in 2008. However, it is important to look past statistics at the diverse learner profiles and reasons for enrolment. While many students are hoping to achieve certification, there are others simply wanting to hone in on specific components of a topic, gain an overall understanding, or simply get a feel for how MOOCs operate. The beauty of MOOCs is that they offer this kind of flexibility. The fact that they are free doesn’t hurt either. So, how are MOOCs faring in higher education today? If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Join ‘Em FutureLearn- a London-based online learning platform owned by Open University- is one of today’s MOOC front-runners. FutureLearn’s success is inherent in their collaborative approach to market infiltration. Rather than positioning MOOCs in direct competition with traditional pathways to higher education, they’ve partnered with countless institutions and organizations around the globe. They’ve recently expanded their reach across the pond by partnering with 5 U.S. universities, all of which will be offering non-credit courses on the learning platform this year. Interestingly, a few of these institutions- like their large counterparts- offer MOOCs over multiple platforms, utilizing the unique features and strengths each provider offers. With more than 5 million users and 13 million course enrolments, it’s safe to say that FutureLearn and their MOOCs- as well as those offered through other leading platforms - are doing just fine. MOOD: More Than Just a Self-Explanatory Instagram Caption MOODs or Massive Open Online Degrees are becoming a reality this year. Or at least, to an extent. 2016 saw FutureLearn add for-credit MOOCs to their platforms and announcing plans to roll out four full-time Master’s degrees and two certificate programs at Deakin University in Australia, on topics such as cybersecurity, information technology, and financial planning. These programs will allow students to test the waters through free trials before paying for each individual course, and without having to commit to program completion. Partnerships between MOOC providers and post-secondary institutions are not just extending the international reach of online courses, but utilizing a hybrid approach to make education increasingly accessible. This collaborative trend is permeating the workforce as well, with big names seeking out innovative approached professional development through MOOCs. Two Cents I recently completed a Master’s Degree in Educational Technology entirely online through the University of British Columbia. Although the courses weren’t MOOCs, the affordances of online learning allowed me to work alongside professionals and life-long learners from various sectors throughout the world. Just as MOOCs are evolving to support social learning, truly effective online courses and programs provide ample opportunity for formal and informal connection among all participants. On top of course flexibility and instructor involvement, exposure to a rich mosaic of experiences and perspectives made each course- and the program in its entirety- incredibly engaging and meaningful. Although collaborative aspects of MOOCs take on a different landscape than those of closed online courses, the potential for personalized learning is certainly there. Tapping into this potential requires that student engagement isn’t limited to the course content itself, but strengthened through social connection.   Sources Referenced: EdSurgeNews. (2016). FutureLearn brings social learning MOOC to U.S. universities. EdSurge. Retrieved from https://www.edsurge.com/news/2017-02-15-futurelearn-brings-social-learning-mooc-to-us-universities Straumsheim, C. (2016). Australian university launches MOOC-powered programs. Inside Higher Ed. Retrieved from https://www.insidehighered.com/quicktakes/2016/12/09/australian-university-launches-mooc-powered-programs Straumsheim, C. (2017). The British MOOC invasion. Inside Higher Ed. Retrieved from https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2017/02/14/british-mooc-provider-futurelearn-expands-us

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