MOOCs vs Online Degree Program


It is only natural that someone like me working in MOOC industry will put so much faith in online education that he/she starts a purely online degree program. The program I joined has been running for a month now, long enough for me to begin a bit of reflection. How do I compare my experience doing numerous MOOC courses and doing an online degree program?

Since the very beginning there is always a voice asking ‘Is MOOC there to stay?’. I still have not formed a view on that. Having said that, the one key contribution of MOOC (I feel) is to empower students by making higher education teaching quality transparent and this is utterly important. 

For each theme below I will write a more elaborated blog after this summary reflection.

Money, money, money: MOOCs are free and online degree program costs money. I will write a separate piece on economics (using only public data). Does paid program mean premium quality? I will leave readers to make your own conclusion.

Culture in/exclusion: due to the massive distribution of MOOC learner demographics, it is much less likely to have a dominant culture in a MOOC course than in an online degree program. It is hardly surprising. When I was sitting in my classroom in Shanghai for my primary school education, there was no one from outside the city. The situation significantly changed when I enrolled my first MOOC course.

There is no doubt an online degree program is much more structured and systematic. MOOC is not there yet. However if I am to compare two courses of the same topic: a single course from an online program and a single MOOC course, the answer is different. Most of the exceptional courses I have taken are MOOCs. Maybe at this moment, no single MOOC platform has a well organised program yet. But with MOOC aggregators and the development of the sector, an optimistic like me would say things can be different very soon.

Presence of instructor – why to teach: My very very honest feeling as a learner: MOOC instructors teach out of passion, online degree program instructors teach out of duty. Again, this does not represent the whole picture. It is merely my personal experience.

Presence of the instructor – how to teach: Instructors can play various roles. They can be ‘ghost’, basically those who never make an online voice. They can be ‘fixers’, sending messages when something goes wrong. They can be cheerleaders, tutors, facilitators. .There is much to write about from student’s view – how do we feel about voice of the instructor.

Reiteration: in general, MOOC courses reiterate much faster compared to an online degree program. Again, need space for more analysis, worth a separate blog about it.

Group experience: I have not seen winner in this area. It is hard to begin with – how you organise good quality group work when people are scattering around the world? It requires much more than what technology can offer. If someone can crack this, I will say that is a revolutionary milestone in education.

I will continue writing about each theme after this summary. Don’t know how this will end (or is there an end?) but somehow I feel this is a good beginning.

cat and dog


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