Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCS) are university-level courses undertaken online. An increasing popular choice for all ages, they allow study without the need to complete an entire programme/ 4 year degree. To assess their effectiveness and value to the high education sector, I enrolled on a MOOC provided by the site ‘Coursera’. Rather than update my experience on a regular basis, I thought it suitable to condense the topic into the one post (call it ‘blog inception’ if you like).
I chose to enrol on the following course:
Firstly, it was important to me that I enjoy the topic of the course, and marketing is of great interest to me. Secondly, past participant of the course had rated it highly, saying the content was taught in a relatable manner and linked strongly to a real business environment.
I was surprised at the variety of courses available, particularly in the business section. There are few limitations, and many of them (such as ‘Foundations of marketing analytics’) are free, which is truly brilliant. Did I make the wrong decision, paying £9000 annually for a degree at Harper Adams with MOOCs on my doorstep?
The first session I completed was titled ‘Introduction to Foundation of Marketing Analytics’. The session lasted approximately 1 hour, and featured a quiz towards the end as the form of assessment. The content was split between text, diagrams, a video and a voice over. Initially I thought the course to be solely written, so I was relieved to find the content presented in a number of ways. This did help to maintain my interest, however I did find my attention level falling in the second half, despite the content being interesting. I also found myself looking up words and phrases in a separate tab to ensure understanding; it would have been nice to have a ‘course glossary’ available to make this easier. Structurally there was little diversity between each weeks tuition, and the content progressed at a rapid pace.
The method of assessment is simple and spread over a long period of time. 10 straight hours of revision before an exam was not necessary in this case. 5 quizzes, each with an equal weighting of 20% were conducted at the end of the session. I found this helpful as the information was fresh in my brain and easy to recall. The questions were challenging, but manageable providing you payed full attention to the session. This is one of the MOOCs main strengths – a method of assessment that favours the student academically, but also thoroughly tests you on the week’s topic.
Students in Higher Education already have rather a lot on their plate studying for a degree/masters etc; do they have time to commit to an online course, or would it distract from their study? This depends on the intensity of the course chosen – it seems they’re engineered to be studied alongside other courses, as the time requirements are relatively low. What’s more they may provide a well needed break/distraction from the chores of studying for a degree.
Unfortunately, there is little widespread recognition of MOOCs amongst employers, although with their increased popularity this could set to change. I do not believe a certificate of achievement for gaining a MOOC qualification holds much weight on a CV, but is solid proof that the candidate is capable of taking education into their own hands and is willing to learn – this deserves credit.
In conclusion, MOOCs are a valuable resource for extensive, distance study, however in my opinion will not replace the traditional classroom/lecture theatre system. This is predominately due to the level of engagement being quite low – despite the inclusion of quizzes, videos, interactive elements and activities, I found the whole experience of ‘online only’ desktop study tiresome and demotivating. Asking the tutor questions was also rather clunky, and took up to a week to receive a response. Without a lecturer or figurehead looking over my shoulder giving advice, conversation and discussion, I found it hard to stay focused on the topic of hand. It is important to consider however that everyone has a different learning style – just because MOOCs didn’t suit me, it does not mean they’re completely redundant. Likewise, my experience was based off of one MOOC – there are thousands more available, each one of them unique. With this in mind I would recommend everyone operating in the higher education sector to try an online course, as I believe it’s a case of ‘don’t knock it until you’ve tried it’.