The truth about MOOCs: Do they Inform you or Educate you?


In the last few years, MOOCs have become the most searched keyword in the digital world. Once you dig into the world of MOOCs, you see the battle of words that is currently on among famous professors, academicians, educationists, editors of tech chronicles, and bloggers. The basic question around which the whole edifice of this current debate is built, is: ‘Are MOOCs the best way to satisfy the global thirst for education?’

Jeff Selingo, contributing editor at The Chronicle of Higher Education and a famous author, states, “The idea of offering free courses online to tens of thousands of students has suddenly become the latest, greatest way to ‘fix’ higher ed; promoted by education-technology entrepreneurs and bemoaned by traditional academics.” On the contrary, Siva Vaidhyanathan, cultural historian and media scholar, a professor of Media Studies and Law at the University of Virginia, states that, “the difference between a real college course and a MOOC is like the difference between playing golf and watching golf. Both can be exciting and enjoyable. Both can be boring and frustrating. But they are not the same thing.”

Apart from these, there are multiple other views on MOOCs, such as, “they reduce costs, improve learning, increase access and generate revenue”, “money is pumped into MOOCs, but students may not have the stamina to make it worthwhile” and many other endless opinions.

This debate actually can be filtered to one central idea: ‘MOOCs are definitely helping the global learners, but the onus of delivery is on the teachers and the platform they use.’

While jumping on the MOOC bandwagon, it’s highly important for teachers to understand the pedagogy of online teaching. If you think you are a popular teacher in the traditional classroom setup and by extension, you will be able to conveniently teach in the digital world too, you are completely mistaken! And if you think you have been a popular online teacher, hence you can pick any random platform, you again make a grievous mistake!

In order to find answers for the teething issues highlighted above, I interacted with Dr. Nellie Deutsch, leader in technology 4 education, relationship-based speaker/researcher/author, expert on authentic & blended learning, mindfulness, Moodle, MOOC, TESOL. Dr. Nellie Deutsch provided important insights with respect to her experience of hosting MOOCs.

Do MOOCs actually educate the learners and provide them with usable information?

Dr. Deutsch, filtering her years of experience, had a simple yet pragmatic reply to this question. She said that great effort is required of the teacher to cater to thousands of the students of different parts of the world at a time. She claimed that she has to be thoroughly prepared before she interacts with the learners.  The live interaction has to be engaging enough to capture the students’ attention. And she has to be very active even after the session to entertain every doubt the student has, no matter if she has continuous sleepless nights. However, she says that at the end when you see the satisfied students appreciating your efforts, and acknowledging you, you feel every effort was worthwhile, and that you made a tangible impact on their learning.

Is it only the teacher who makes or destroys the MOOC?

The response was that you can never deliver successful MOOCs alone. Since there are thousands of learners present in a MOOC, you require a team of dedicated teachers to help you in this whole event. There are assignments to be checked, doubt sessions, and multiple sessions by other expert teachers which makes the MOOC successful. Once you are ready with every bit of your MOOC, the last, but the most important element you require is the right platform. If your platform crashes in mid-course, no matter how well you were prepared, please understand that you have effectively ruined your MOOC and the future aspects of being a successful teacher.

What is your pick for the right platform?

She stated “definitely WizIQ. WizIQ provides me with a platform for an unlimited number of students that does not crash. I didn’t have to use my own server. Everything was done on the servers at WizIQ, and the ease with which I was able to deliver the course made it a worthwhile experience for sure. The best feature which makes the platform unique is that it supports synchronous learning.”

You must have explored other platforms too. Then why only WizIQ?

She responded that she definitely explored other platforms but there were some challenges. The biggest challenge was those platforms didn’t support live interactions. These interactions are the lifeblood of education and her favorite part of teaching. Thankfully with WizIQ, she was able to connect with the participants in a real-to-life virtual class, respond to questions, and clarify information.

Dr. Nellie Deutsch definitely provided an insider’s viewpoint with respect to MOOCs, and has for sure shown how successful online courses can be conducted. Based on her experiences, and her enormous success, I further delved into the world of MOOCs, and have built a case study ready for that explains how online teachers can leverage the power of MOOCs for effective learning. Click here to download this case study and power your MOOC.

Dolly Purba

Dolly is a content manager/ contributor with WizIQ. She is a Literature enthusiast and has honed her writing and literary skills with a Masters course in Literature. She has a knack for simplifying things. From concept generation to outlining to writing to editing, she pursues the task of content creation with utmost zeal. The blog space here is an attempt to outlay the creative work undertaken by her and her team.

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