Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs)

I have taken a couple of courses on Udacity and OCW and really enjoyed them. The current crop of MOOCs like EdX, Udacity, Coursera are version 1.0 in my opinion. Their model mimics class room training. A teacher talks about the subject peppered with course assessments and steps you through various units of the course. Hopefully MOOCs will evolve to be more interactive and exploratory over a period of time.

Here are some stats on a course on Physics by Professor Lewin.

 Professor Lewin’s online course materials published through MIT OpenCourseWare:

  • Professor Lewin’s courses—including 8.01 Classical Mechanics8.02 Electricity and Magnetism and 8.03 Vibrations and Waves—have been visited more than 8 million times on OCW
  • The video lectures for these courses have been viewed more than 11.4 million times on YouTube
  • The first lecture for 8.01 has been viewed more than 1.2 million times on YouTube
  • Translations of Professor Lewin’s courses in Chinese, Spanish, Portuguese, Korean, Turkish and Thai have been accessed by hundreds of thousands of learners

MOOCs are a big boon for self learners. Some of them do it for certification but a lot of them do it because, they want to go back and learn a subject they like. Their self paced nature, the high quality of instruction and the range of topics are all attractive.

In addition to benefiting, self learners, MOOCs also seem to help teachers. Here are a few quotes from Revolution Hits the Universities  by Thomas Friedman.

since May, some 155,000 students from around the world have taken edX’s first course: an M.I.T. intro class on circuits. “That is greater than the total number of M.I.T. alumni in its 150-year history

Within three weeks I had received more feedback on my sociological ideas than I had in a career of teaching, which significantly influenced each of my subsequent lectures and seminars. – Mitch Duneier, a Princeton sociology professor

It will be interesting to watch the development and evolution of MOOCs and the free online  education movement and how it will change the world over the next few decades.

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