Massive Online Classes A Distraction?

computersI keep a tab open on my laptop that tracks higher education updates on Google News. The majority of the time I become frustrated with articles about budget cuts and opinions on the infamous question of whether it’s worth it financially to get a college degree from a four year university.  The other day, however, I saw an article about massive open online courses, or MOOC, and how they supposedly distract universities and cost them money, according to a consultancy firm that advises institutions, governments and investors on issues related to higher education. The thing is, if there’s a way to provide extra classes at a reduced cost for the students partaking in the course, shouldn’t universities be on board?

That’s what I thought. About a year or so ago I began taking courses to become an online tutor through my university. I was a little nervous about taking up this new technological challenge, but after I heard the benefits for the students that come with providing certain classes online I actually began to get a little excited.

Many of the young adults that I would be tutoring were incoming freshmen that hadn’t yet moved to campus to start their regular classes. They had scored below the required writing score and had the option of taking the summer course I would help manage instead of falling behind on the schedule by taking a course when the year began. But because they lived in various places nowhere near campus, MOOC just made sense.

The students would save money and time on their courses instead of commuting and we had the opportunity to admit a larger number of students since we weren’t limited to a physical classroom. In a conference on Wednesday, Ashwin Assomull, a partner at the Parthenon Group, said the firm was going to “sit on the fence” over whether they could be beneficial to the MOOC sector or not. They have been proven to cut introductory courses, but apparently “when you talk to employers across Asia, [and] a number of the emerging markets, employers don’t really rate any kind of online education as a signal of quality. They still believe in bricks and mortar.”

At the rate Moocs are going, and as the internet continues to create opportunities and change the way we do things in the digital age, we can see that there will be changes to this “bricks and mortar” way of thinking. Moocs are practically cost effective on both ends of the education system and offering more of them, still through reputable universities, will help ease some of the burden of the cost of education and maybe one day put to rest the search for the infamous question of whether getting a college degree is worth it.

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