Friday, October 25, 2013


E-Learning has been around for a while. It is practical because students can stay home, study and email their questions. The system was the logical child of long-distance learning who was around at least half a century ago: your lessons were mailed and you posted back the quizzes.

Now come the MOOCs. The Massive Open Online Courses are different, not just because they are free. They offer you not only free courses, but an excellent structure.  We have a lot of free courses on YouTube already, from math to economy to music, so anybody can learn about almost anything. A MOOC has advantages above that: one, it gives access to the community of students with discussions pages. The discussions are not there just for questions, they are open to comments and expressions of feelings and concerns and opinions. I checked 20 different MOOCs discussions and I found the level much better than what you find nowadays on the comments page of the New York Times or the Washington Post: students are required to follow the basics rules of decency, and they usually do. I really like the structure: you get not only videos, but material (textbooks, experiments, examples), quizzes, exercises, and assignments.
You can get a certificate or a diploma from a MOOC, but that part is usually not free.

Why do prestigious colleges and universities get into producing MOOCs that cost them money? Because it allows them to reach students and potentially future paying students all over the world. It is not rare to see the first run of a MOOC open with over 50, 000 students all over the world. It is a new gold rush: if one percent of these free students become paying students, the MOOC will be worth the investment.
MOOCs are great publicity even if the college does not make money out of them. For instance, out of the twenty MOOC s I follow including teachings from Stanford, Tokyo U., Penn U., Chicago U. , Geneva U. Being of curious mind, I am also addicted to YouTube lectures from Yale and Princeton. Well, I discovered that some of the best teachers come from Michigan University. So, Michigan is now ranked number one in my mind. It is an unexpected result of following MOOCs. Of course the teachers quality is only one element of ranking but for me and probably other MOOCs students, it is the main one.

What I like best with the MOOCs is the freedom it gives you:
- You can be a college student, follow this to term like you would in a regular college.
- You can follow the course to keep updated on a subject in your field
- You can just listen to the lectures because you are interested in a subject. For instance, democracy, health, epidemiology, finance are subjects of general interest.
-You are allowed to be just curious.

1 comment:

Cerulean Bill said...

I love this post. Thank you!