From The Chronicle of Higher Education [Technology], Sunday,
March 17, 2013. See
What You Need to Know About MOOCs
Call it the year of the mega-class.
Colleges and professors have rushed to try a new form of online
teaching known as MOOCs-short for "massive open online
courses." The courses raise questions about the future of
teaching, the value of a degree, and the effect technology will have
on how colleges operate. Struggling to make sense of it all? On this
page you'll find highlights from The Chronicle's coverage of
What are MOOCs?
MOOCs are classes that are taught online to large numbers of students,
with minimal involvement by professors. Typically, students watch
short video lectures and complete assignments that are graded either
by machines or by other students. That way a lone professor can
support a class with hundreds of thousands of participants.
Why all the hype?
Advocates of MOOCs have big ambitions, and that makes some college
leaders nervous. They're especially worried about having to compete
with free courses from some of the world's most exclusive
universities. Of course, we still don't know how much the courses will
change the education landscape, and there are plenty of
These are like OpenCourseWare projects, right?
Sort of. More than a decade ago, the Massachusetts Institute of
Technology started a much-touted project called OpenCourseWare, to
make all of its course materials available free online. But most of
those are text-only: lecture notes and the like. Several colleges now
offer a few free courses in this way, but they typically haven't
offered assignments or any way for people who follow along to prove
that they've mastered the concepts. MOOCs attempt to add those
So if you take tests, do you get credit?
So far there aren't any colleges that offer credit for their MOOCs.
But some MOOC participants can buy or receive certificates confirming
their understanding of the material.
Who are the major players?
Several start-up companies are working with universities and
professors to offer MOOCs. Meanwhile, some colleges are starting their
own efforts, and some individual professors are offering their courses
to the world. Right now four names are the ones to know:
A nonprofit effort run jointly by MIT, Harvard, and Berkeley.
Leaders of the group say they intend to slowly add other university
partners over time. edX plans to freely give away the software
platform it is building to offer the free courses, so that anyone can
use it to run MOOCs.
A for-profit company founded by two computer-science professors from
The company's model is to sign contracts with colleges that agree to
use the platform to offer free courses and to get a percentage of any
revenue. More than a dozen high-profile institutions, including
Princeton and the U. of Virginia, have joined.
Another for-profit company founded by a Stanford computer-science
The company, which works with individual professors rather than
institutions, has attracted a range of well-known scholars. Unlike
other providers of MOOCs, it has said it will focus all of its courses
on computer science and related fields.
A nonprofit organization founded by the MIT and Harvard
graduate Salman Khan.
Khan Academy began in 2006 as an online library of short instructional
videos that Mr. Khan made for his cousins. The library-which has
received financial backing from the Bill & Melinda Gates
Foundation and Google, as well as from individuals-now hosts more
than 3,000 videos on YouTube. Khan Academy does not provide content
from universities, but it does offer automated practice exercises, and
it recently offered a curriculum of computer-science courses. Much of
the content is geared toward secondary-education students.
A for-profit platform that lets anyone set up a
The company encourages its instructors to charge a small fee, with the
revenue split between instructor and company. Authors themselves, more
than a few of them with no academic affiliation, teach many of the
IMPORTANT NOTE: A chronology of developments in 2013 and
earlier to 2008 regarding MOOCs is given at the website -
http://chronicle.com/article/What-You-Need-to-Know-About/133475/?cid=at&utm_source=at&utm_medium=en . A great deal of
information is given regarding implications of MOOCs, credit or
completion certificates, plagiarism, making college easier,
profit-making, authors' bill of rights, verifying identities and much
more -- websites for each are given [just "click" and you
get more information.
Jerry P. Becker
Dept. of Curriculum & Instruction
Southern Illinois University
625 Wham Drive
Mail Code 4610
Carbondale, IL 62901-4610
Phone: (618) 453-4241 [O]
(618) 457-8903 [H]
Fax: (618) 453-4244