Editorial, Opinion

EDIT: MOOCs growing in popularity

Georgetown University joined the list of elite universities offering massive open online courses, according to an article in The Washington Post Sunday.

In comparison to regular college courses and traditional online courses, MOOCs are courses that do not earn students credit, do not require a fee and are available to people outside the host school.

Georgetown will partner with edX, a Web platform that offers MOOCs, according to the Post.

In addition to Georgetown, more than 200 universities have expressed interest in working with edX since Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology announced their collaboration with the company in May, according to a statement on edX’s website.

MOOCs are nothing new. The idea traces as far back as the 1960s. However, researchers attribute the hype to elite universities’ recent commitment to the movement.

At Boston University, we have seen a similar movement. On Oct. 12, students and staff received an email from President Robert Brown about the formation of a council, the Council on Educational Technology and Learning Innovation, to explore advancements in digital learning, MOOCs being one of the tools up for consideration.

On one hand, BU would benefit from adopting MOOCs because of its role in bringing formal education to geographic areas where those opportunities are limited or non-existent.

However, the university should not kid itself. It seems unlikely that many students will be motivated enough to enroll in such courses. It sounds like a nice idea — expanding skills for a summer or two — but when summer rolls around and we find ourselves working or making travel plans with our friends, are we really going to commit ourselves to these courses? Probably not.

It should also be noted that while MOOCs are a great community service, they cannot replace traditional brick-and-mortar classrooms. They provide little interaction with the instructors, if any. For people who have the opportunity to attend a traditional college, MOOCs should be considered a supplement to traditional education and a supplement only.

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