MOOCs: The New Way of Learning

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Oyindamola Johnson

Oyindamola Johnson, iNERDE Guest Blogger

January 25, 2015

LAGOS, NIGERIA – The future of education is gradually evolving beyond the four walls of the classroom and is making use of both conventional and unconventional means to educate millions around the world. The internet is playing a major role in achieving this.

This brings me to the concept of MOOC, my main topic of discourse in this blogpost. Before I delve further into how I have been able to make use of this resource, I’d like to give you a basic definition of what MOOC is all about.

As Wikipedia tells it, a Massive Open Online Course, or MOOC, is an online course aimed at unlimited participation and open access via the web. In addition to traditional course materials such as videos, readings, and problem sets, MOOCs provide interactive use forums that help build a community of students, professors and teaching assistants. MOOCs are a recent development in distance education, which only began to emerge as recently at 2012.

Having graduated from university in 2008 with a Bachelor’s degree in mass communication, continuous educational, professional and personal development has been a major driving force for me.

Through countless hours spent researching educational opportunities online, I recently came across MOOCs, Massive Open Online Courses. It was as though I had stumbled on a gold mine. Where have I been all this time? I asked, while immersing myself fully into the opportunities it presented me.

To date, I have completed MOOC courses from the University of Southampton, the University of East Anglia, and Open Universities Australia. I am also currently studying with Korea’s Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, Duke University, and the University of Pennsylvania, to name a few.

Where did I find the time, funds, and resources to visit all the above institutions, you may ask? Well, the simple response is that I didn’t. I have never visited any of these institutions. Rather, I have only accessed them virtually, for free, on my iPad in the comfort of my own living room. For once, learning was not restricted to me having to physically enter a building. I could study on the go, at my own pace – anywhere and anytime.

Several universities and learning institutions around the world have teamed up with various providers to make a top-quality educational curriculum available to millions of people across the globe through MOOCs– spanning disciplines such as Science, Technology, Business, Arts, Law, Engineering, Education, Medicine, and many more. However, these courses are available only as significantly scaled-down versions of their regular courses. MOOCs don’t reflect the full curriculum available to students enrolled in these programs at university , nor do they translate into university credits.

Nonetheless, the fact that several leading universities and institutions are working to make these programs more readily available is indeed encouraging. Upon completing these courses students can receive branded certificates, varying from statements of participation to attestations of completion. Some MOOC providers, like Coursera, go a step further and provide a verified certificate to those who complete their verified courses.

There are those who argue for the relevance of MOOCs and those who argue against them. MOOCs may or may not have an impact on workplace recognition of new knowledge acquired through these courses, and some have even predicted that the concept, however noble it may be, will not stand the test of time. However, the widespread popularity of MOOCs and the traction is has generated across the globe is phenomenal, and educational institutions worldwide have accepted its importance and relevance in 21st-century learning. It has also proved to be a major driving force for continuous professional, academic, and personal advancement.

For a young, growing and emerging African youth leader, MOOCs are a way to virtually visit leading institutions you otherwise may not have the chance to visit on your own. Through them, you can partake in a world-class curriculum, network with fellow scholars, increase your learning in any area you choose, and better prepare yourself for the future –and all of it is free. For once, time and money have ceased to be a barrier to education. I should warn you though: once you start with MOOCs, you won’t want to stop. I’m on my eight MOOC course at the moment, and I don’t plan on quitting anytime soon.