Advantages and Disadvantages of MOOCs for Learning

05 Feb 2024
Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs)

Technology has played a key role in transforming the education system by taking it beyond the constraints of the conventional structure. Therefore, institutes have succeeded in facilitating traditional in-person classes as well as online classes.

No wonder MOOCs have become popular among students across the globe, and reputed institutes and universities offer courses in varied areas. For instance, computer science, data science, business and management, humanities subjects, etc.

What are MOOCs?

MOOCs, also known as Massive Open Online Courses, refer to online courses that are accessible to anyone with internet access. Furthermore, these courses are apt for individuals who aspire to learn new skills and improve their knowledge and competencies. Also, people who want to switch their careers tend to enroll in these courses.

Two of the main contributing factors that led to the increasing demand for MOOCs were the availability of affordable internet and smartphones. On the other hand, the development of software platforms and cloud-based technologies has been equally responsible.

In fact, digital advancements have made it possible for students to access high-quality educational content across the globe. Moreover, they encounter a dynamic learning experience through collaborative forums, real-time feedback, interactive quizzes, etc.

Furthermore, students who have completed their post-secondary education pursue these courses to attain higher education in particular fields. In fact, according to a recent survey, most of the students are from the UK, Canada, Brazil, India, Russia, and China.

Advantages of a Massive Open Online Course

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs)

1. Learner Engagement

The teaching and learning process must be conducive to a dynamic learning environment, encouraging students to take an active interest. However, if it includes outdated and passive instructional approaches, distraction and boredom become customary.

Especially in the case of e-learning, wherein everything is in online mode, the institute or course conductor employs appropriate mechanisms. For instance, they make up for the lack of face-to-face interaction with online group discussions and debates.

Some of the useful tactics to increase learner engagement are as follows:

  • Providing students with a variety of learning materials, such as journal articles, interactive learning materials, etc.
  • Providing concise guidance to complete course activities and gain a deeper understanding of course content.
  • Conducting micro-lectures by highlighting and combining core concepts in the course materials.
  • Establishing an inquiry-based learning environment, which urges students to ask questions and have discussions among themselves.
  • Using discussion forums to address students' questions and doubts.

2. Multitude of Learning Resources

Gone are the days when one had to go through textbooks or search the library for suitable sources to find information. Thanks to the online availability of valid and credible published educational materials, one can verify and access them accordingly.

Furthermore, these learning resources are central to MOOC courses, allowing instructors to leverage them and enhance the learning process. On the other hand, it serves to enhance student's learning experiences through various learning resources, such as:

  • Multimedia elements (documentaries, video essays, etc.)
  • Podcasts and interviews with subject experts.
  • Case studies and published journals.
  • Digitalized resources (e-books).

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3. Interactive Learning Community

One of the fundamental features of online education is the remote structure, which institutes can use to their advantage to streamline communication. Furthermore, they use the medium to facilitate interaction between students and teachers.

Besides, they use the synchronous learning mode to facilitate quality online discussions and conduct short virtual meetings. Also, conducting small groups allows students to delve into varied topics from different perspectives.

Blogs, discussion forums, and other collaboration tools are equally beneficial for establishing an interactive learning community. On the other hand, when they work on team or group projects, it becomes a vital social learning exercise.

Therefore, students get the opportunity to learn, perceive different perspectives, and reflect on their experiences. Consequently, it fosters their critical thinking skills and ability to work with others.

4. Skill Enhancement

If someone asks to define a MOOC, one of the first answers that comes to mind is specialized courses covering different areas. These are carefully designed courses and programs following an updated curriculum to inculcate the latest knowledge and skills.

Besides, in order to adapt to the ever-evolving job market and have an extra edge, individuals need to have the relevant competencies. That is where these courses come into play by enabling them to upskill themselves.

For instance, specific technical courses, including data science, cybersecurity, artificial intelligence (AI), cybersecurity, web development, cloud computing, etc. MOOC learning platforms combine experiential approaches, allowing students to get hands-on experience.

5. Self-Paced Learning

The traditional classroom setting has a fixed structure, urging students to follow a set timeline in terms of assignments and other activities. The pressure to keep up with the pace of peers and academic stress is overwhelming and burdensome.

On the contrary, few of the prominent results of searching for MOOCs will indicate that they are flexible and provide personalized learning pathways. Hence, learners can progress through the course materials at their convenience.

Therefore, the focus is more on understanding, exploring, and knowledge acquisition than on syllabus completion. In fact, the self-paced and adaptability aspects support different learning styles and comprehension capabilities.

Disadvantages of MOOCs for Learning

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs)

1. Lack of personal interaction

Human beings are social beings, and they prosper through social interaction; therefore, remote learning can be jarring to many people. For example, tech-savvy individuals who are adept at social media may not have a problem with online interactions.

However, people who love to have one-on-one, in-person interactions may have difficulty getting used to online sessions. They may find it tiresome to look into their phone or laptop screen to hold a conversation.

2. Drop-Out Rates

The asynchronous learning model is the foundation of MOOC courses, allowing students to learn at a comfortable and suitable time. Nevertheless, the freedom that sets it apart from the restraints of a conventional setting can be a drawback.

The lack of a set timetable might lead students to give in to distractions and prioritize other commitments over academics. As a result, it does not take long before they start to lag and lose interest in learning, leading to dropout.

Also, research indicates the completion rate of these courses is lower, which is why LMS is a significant tool for learners. The tool helps to create different kinds of educational material and assessments and assists in tracking progress.

Students can participate in different online activities, including microlearning, pop quizzes, and MCQs, to continue their learning process. Simultaneously, course conductors can track the progress of individual students and share reports.

3. Technical Barriers

MOOCs, meaning Massive Open Online Courses, rely on the digitalization of education materials. Therefore, the availability of the internet and digital tools (smartphones, computers) are crucial requirements that some may not possess.

Geographical areas with low internet bandwidth are a major issue that hinders the prospect of online learning. Hence, students eager to continue their higher education may encounter such obstacles if they have the necessary tools.

4. Quality Assurance Challenges

Diverse entities, such as institutes, universities, independent organizations, and individuals, plan and create MOOCs. Hence, the quality of courses, program delivery, and methods vary accordingly; most of them may claim to be the best.

However, quality assurance is a crucial factor when it comes to course facilitation and student experiences, and many may be inadequate. That is why the learning experience platform (LXP) is the perfect solution for institutes.

LXP is an ideal software that enables institutes to regulate quality education and cater to the learning needs of students.

Final Thoughts,

Mismatches with personal learning styles, lack of motivation, in-person interaction, etc. might be the drawbacks of MOOC courses. Nevertheless, it offers multiple advantages that make up for some of the shortcomings. In fact, if the institutes create and facilitate the course efficiently, it helps to keep students motivated.

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Prashant Borkar Author:

Prashant Borkar,

Academic Consultant

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