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  • Education: MOOCs as “Weapons of Mass Instruction” and South Korea – 6 Considerations

    November 21st, 2012  by  Asia-Pacific Global Research Group - Jasper Kim

    1) So the era of technology is seemingly transforming higher education. How does this massive open online courses, or MOOCs work?
     
    Massive open online courses (MOOCs) are free online courses that are meant to attract a large audience base, whereby any person anywhere in the world can watch and participate. So basically, any person with internet access and a PC can get up on the learning curve relating to select offered courses. Often, these courses are taught by world-renown scholars and academics from such institutions as Stanford, MIT, and Ivy League institutions. Some of the leading MOOC providers include Udacity, Coursera, and EdX. 
     
    2) When and how did MOOCs begin? How popular are these massive online classes?
     
    The conceptual idea behind MOOCs has been around since the early 1960s. But the “real world” usage of MOOCs are a very recent phenomenon. MIT represents one “early mover” academic institution with the launching of its “MIT Open Courseware” platform, in which any person with internet access could tap into hundreds of pre-recorded lectures, including some of MIT’s most popular courses and professors, which has recently led to MITx in March 2012. But the “breakout” began about a year ago in the Fall of 2011, in which 160,000 students from all over the world signed up for an artificial intelligence (AI) MOOC course offered by two Stanford professors. The same professors saw the potential upside of this teaching platform–which had the potential to influence and impact more students in a course than those in all their previous courses combined–and partnered to form Udacity, one of the leading MOOC providers today.
     
    3) What and who would you say are the main benefits and benefitters from such MOOC’s? Students? Professors? MOOC providers?
     
    MOOC benefits include:
    Students:
    – free or very cheap fees to access the course
    – close physical/geographic proximity unnecessary
    – crowdsourcing via peer review and group session can be used at a massive scale
     
    Professors:
    – potential to influence a much larger audience
    – ability to receive feedback from wider array of students
    – become part of the solution in terms of educating those who may normally not have access to education
     
    MOOC providers:
    – relevance in the education market
    – potential future revenue sourcing
    – hub for education at all levels
     
    4) What are the potential damages through the rapid spread of MOOCs? Do offering such wholesale-type online courses dilute the elite college-level status for top universities?
     
    Potential MOOC downsides:
    – virtual learning platform can be unfamiliar and intimidating
    – potential for plagiarism
    – high dropout rate (thus far, albeit it is still early in the MOOC era)
    – a certain level of digital platform knowledge is needed
     
    5) What sort of challenges do the professors involved in online teaching face?
     
    The main challenge is not having instant feedback from your teaching methods. It’s a bit akin to doing your craft in front of a recorded camera for a movie as opposed to a live audience in a theater production. Having said this, often there is a great amount of feedback after the course is posted online, often with much more scale and scope than with a traditional class given the scalability of the MOOC platform.
     
    Everyone, including professors, are trying to stay current in a constantly changing environment. Since the widespread use of internet, companies such as Google and Facebook have changed the digital landscape dramatically. And the thinking is that with MOOCs, much like Google’s mandate of democratizing information by making it free, some in academic circles believe that education should also be democratized and made free to help close the gap between the haves and have-nots.
     
    6) Can you give us a rough sense of how widespread and appreciated online courses are here in Korea?
     

    Korean universities have not yet fully adopted MOOCs or even previously existing platforms such as Youtube. But one thing about Korea is that it is often a “fast follower,” especially in the technology field. For instance, the TEDx concept has been hugely popular here. And hopefully, some enterprising entrepreneurs will take advantage of this opportunity and transform it into something that is potentially game changing. So in short, hope exists that Korea’s academic institutions can catch up and even become a leading player in the MOOC era.
     

     

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