The Big Idea That Can Revolutionize Higher Education: 'MOOC'

Posted: May 13, 2012 at 1:11 am

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Massive open online courses combine the best of college -- exceptional instruction -- with the best of technology -- online interactive learning. Is this the future of efficient, effective education?


In the historic sweep of technology, higher education stands apart as a bastion of old-fashioned thinking. But in anticipation that the information revolution is coming for colleges, Ivy League colleges are competing to create online classes without the Ivy League price tag and without the Ivy League admission hurdles. In a recent article in the New Yorker, the President of Stanford, John Hennessy said, "There's a tsunami coming."

Daphne Koller, a professor of Computer Science at Stanford University and the co-founder of Coursera, a free online classroom, believes that Hennessy is right. "The tsunami is coming whether we like it or not," she said. "You can be crushed or you can surf and it is better to surf."

Coursera is a massive online open classroom -- or MOOC -- that operates in conjunction with four top universities - Stanford, University of Pennsylvania, the University of Michigan, and Princeton. Co-founded by Koller and Andrew Ng, Coursera currently offers forty classes on topics ranging from poetry to robotics. Like a traditional class, each online class is comprised of a series of video lectures with PowerPoint slides. Students can participate in discussion boards and are graded on the assignments. Students who complete the course with passing grades receive a certificate of completion.

Earlier this month, Coursera was joined by another Ivy League MOOC, edX. EdX, a joint education venture run by MIT and Harvard, will begin offering online classes in Fall 2012. About 120,000 students signed up for the first MITx course, "Circuits and Electronics,'' in March. In a video on their website, President, Anant Agarwal, explained that like Coursera, edX classes will be open to anyone.

Students who complete the course would be offered a certificate, rather than college credit.

Coursera and edX have more in common with the Khan Academy than with the typical online classes offered by most colleges and for-profit enterprises, like the University of Phoenix. The Khan Academy began as a series of lectures given by Sal Khan, a hedge fund manager, to help his cousin with her math homework. He uploaded his explanations to algebra problems to YouTube and was surprised when his videos began to attract a huge following. With backing by the Gates Foundation and Google, the Khan Academy now features 3,200 videos on everything from math to history.


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The Big Idea That Can Revolutionize Higher Education: 'MOOC'

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May 13th, 2012 at 1:11 am

Posted in Online Education