What is MOOC: Massive open
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From The Chronicle:
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 MOOCs.
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 skeptics.
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 elements.
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 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
A for-profit platform that lets anyone set up a course.
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 courses.
( Courtesy: The Chronicle.
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