Business Unusual

Could a MOOC help #FeesMustFall?

As South African students call for fees to fall, Business Unusual considers the options that online education may offer to both increase access and offset the income universities can earn to manage their costs and keep fees stable.

The courses cover hundreds of topics. There is even one offered by Princeton that started today called Making Government Work in Hard Places which might be an option for the Minister of Higher Education to consider.

What a MOOC was supposed to be as described by the man who coined the term, Dave Cormier.

While the ability to scale and charge for access to short or medium courses, the hoped impact of MOOCs has not delivered on all the expectations.

What they are.

  • Generally courses are free
  • Available to anyone with suitable internet access
  • Have assignments and tests
  • Run for a specific time with a pass or fail mark
  • Could offer certification at a fee

What they are not.

  • A replacement for formal tertiary education
  • A better way to get an education than formal class or correspondence
  • The miracle solution to high fee prices and limited class sizes
  • Simply a way to browse educational material

The future is still bright for MOOCs. Certainly, if some of the obstacles can be addressed, a major one is just finishing the course. As they are typically free, many sign up and don't finish.

That may not be a big issue as classes can be tens of thousands strong. Some institutions now offer credits for passing and charging for the accreditation which should see that both the see more finish and begin earning an income stream.

The original idea was for students to be introduced to a community of students that had access to course material but that the learning happened collaboratively through forum discussions instead of standard lectures.

Many of the current MOOC still allow for the community discussion to address student questions but rely more on video lectures and assignments completed by completing tests and submitting work. The volume of scripts would make it crazy for course managers to mark so scripts for written submissions are given to other students to mark. A student is required to mark multiple scripts allowing for a mark to be obtained from the assessment of multiple markers.

While many sign up solely to watch the videos, the course have a start and end date which makes them different to the platforms like TedX, the Khan Academy and the educational channels on YouTube.

Ready to try one yourself?

The best known MOOC options are

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