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Published on May 24, 2019 | Career Talks| Education News| Employment| Eye Opener| Interviews| Online courses
MOOC’s – What are they and why are they abandoned?


The term MOOC coined by Dave Cormier in 2008, stands for ‘Massive Open Online Courses’ which are online mediums for educational course delivery. Filled with high-quality content, free learning resources and interactive tools for practice and skill development. It employs quizzes and assignments to test enrolled students. It promotes unlimited participation with no limit on attendance and provides open access to its extensive classes on various subjects, a network of like-minded peers and subject experts to the public via the internet. The concept of distance learning originated with open universities and correspondence courses in the 1890s. Though with correspondence courses, even though they weren’t free, less than 5% of the enrolled students actually completed the course.

What is MOOC?

MOOC is a digital age development in distance education introduced in 2006 by Open Educational Resource but popularized only in 2012. 

MOOC is a freemium business model where the majority course content are for  free. 

“Charging for content would be a tragedy, ” said Andrew Ng. 

But Premium services such as certification or a statement of completion would be charged a fee for a few of the courses. However financial aids are also given in some cases.

 MOOCs are regarded as an important tool by millions of people as it helps to access Higher Education,  including people in developing countries. They are quietly reshaping Higher Education and ultimately enhancing the quality of life. By making knowledge available to everyone, they are making an impact not only locally or regionally but globally as well. MOOCs are  increasing access to an extraordinary number of courses offered by world-renowned institutions and teachers, free of cost. Therefore, Students are able to access complete courses offered by universities all over the world. As more universities and higher education system begin offering their degree programs online, we could be moving towards a single global system of higher education.




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The ease of MOOC platforms allows users to learn anywhere at anytime and on any platform. You could even utilise your phone to learn something on your daily commute.


MOOC Courses with Certificates.

Some major MOOCs that started during the initial years were Khan Academy, Peer-to-Peer University, Udemy, and Alison. By 2012, MOOCs became popular and portals like Coursera, Udacity and edX cropped up, with great success.

These online courses are extremely helpful to those with a full-time job and are accessible to people who cannot afford an institutional education so that they can learn something new or add to their skill set without it taking up too much of their time or burning a hole in their pockets. Unfortunately, these online courses face the same problem as correspondence courses, that is, a huge majority of their users do not complete the courses they enrolled in. While the completion rate differs from site to site, according to a survey1 by Katy Jordan, the average completion rate for MOOCs is 15%. Harvard and MIT provide online courses on edX with HarvardX and MITx but both only reported a 5.5% completion rate.

To understand the statics behind it, Justin Reich from MIT, conducted a survey with MOOC users. He divided the users based on their motivation and found that there was a 19.5% completion rate with dedicated users and a 5.4% completion rate with users who were unsure of whether they wanted to take the course. He also found that a selection of users who were just browsers or ‘auditors’, as he called them had a completion rate of only 13.3%.

online courses, mooc courses, free online classes, what is coursera, mooc
Learn with ease from the comfort of your home.

The fact remains that there is an extremely low completion rate with MOOCs, regardless of the reputation of the university providing it. The reasons being, these are open and free online courses and therefore do not require actual commitment*. Coursera found that students who paid $30 to $90 were substantially more likely to finish the course. To attract students for on fee charging classes, free introductory courses may be provided.The certificates or diplomas awarded by online courses are not seen with the same importance, by the users, as ones awarded by established universities, even if technically they hold the same value. Majority of the users are older than the average college graduate, who do not feel the urgency to complete the courses they enrolled for. The audience who know about these various MOOCs are very few in number, consisting mostly of college students and corporate employees.


Benefits of MOOC

  1. Cost-effective
  2. Improving access to higher education
  3. Providing an affordable alternative to formal education 
  4. serve as a great recruitment tool
  5. Offers a flexible learning schedule
  6.  Sustainable Development Goals


Challenges and Criticisms

  1. They have very low completion rates.
  2. The educational value perceived for MOOCs are quite low as compared to University Degrees.
  3. Digital literacy is important to make use of the online materials
  4. The time and effort required from participants might exceed what students are willing to actually commit to a free online course
  5. Participants must self-regulate and set their own goals
  6. Language and translation barriers

Moving forward, it is necessary to ensure that more people know about the various options that are available in terms of online education. Given the facts, it is evident that the problem does not lie with any of these MOOC providers but rather, with the users. So get out there and learn something new! Let us know which courses you’ve taken up recently to equip yourself for a potential job, career or ones you’ve taken up just for fun.

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