Anyone that pays attention to the higher education industry has certainly taken notice to an interesting trend that is occurring in how education is being delivered to students through numerous universities. Higher Education institutions of today are quick to notice that given the consumer technologies that exist today, students can learn anytime and anywhere. With this came the wave of Massive Open Online Courses- or to put it more simply, MOOCs.
MOOCs provide both traditional and non-traditional learners with the same opportunities to obtain an education that can fit into their lives and can benefit them going forward. With the popularity of the online learning model also comes the wave of hosting companies that support the distribution of online instruction. Perhaps the most notable organization to host these services for major universities in the U.S. is Coursera. In visiting Coursera’s website you can easily search through courses and the universities and sign up right away- that’s how easy it is! EdX has also garnered a great deal of press as it involves a partnership by two of the nation’s most prestigious universities- Harvard and MIT. University of California- Berkeley has also very recently signed on as a partner organization. And another provider that is up and coming and gaining more recognition is Udacity. Udacity was the brain child of Sebastian Thrun, VP of Google and part time teacher of Stanford University. He created more a “grassroots campaign” as he was able to get other Stanford University professors on board to contribute to the online classes.
Though all of the previously mentioned MOOCs are not necessarily accredited, they do provide options for certification if the student fulfills the necessary requirements to become certified. So what does this all really mean for the traditional university model? With rampant unemployment and unprecedented student debt, higher education institutions of today are forced to evolve. So the free online class models may not necessarily be helping the universities bottom line, but can increase the overall recognition that the university receives in expanding their educational reach. It will be interesting to see how many universities choose to take part in the MOOC model and what results will actually come from students that are participating in these classes.