The need for better educated workers has increased over the year because of the central role of information and knowledge. Universities and Colleges could not keep up in fulfilling this need. A new model was needed to provide “quality, affordable post-secondary education to a much larger number of students”. Many people belief that online learning is the answer to the challenge and that it is emerging as the key technology enabler to transform higher education.
There has been a significant increase in the use of online learning. In 2008 open teaching got a new name, Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). MOOCs are online platforms offering different courses and some are associated with universities and some are offering free courses and try to generate funding to become self-sustained.
MOOCs’ have different purposes, e.g. some are built on the idea of democratising education and other focusses on improving specific skills. One of the main purposes is to reach the masses to empower them. The idea is that costs should be reduced to make it even more accessible but currently this is a challenge, e.g. I looked at the cost of an online short course (10 weeks) and it costs R12, 500. Sharing of knowledge is another purpose of this platform.
There are many questions around the value of MOOCs. Yes, it is more accessible but one of the most important questions are: Will the certificates be recognised by the workplace? Certification is offered but it is not credit-bearing. It is also not recognised by the necessary quality assurance bodies. A solution is that these courses should be part of a quality assurance body.
I have only touched the top of the iceberg regarding this topic because a discussion to cover all the areas cannot be done within 10 to 20 sentences. There is a lack of proper research because this is still a new field. I certainly do see the need for MOOCs’ but personally feel that it is now focussing on personal development and not necessarily to increase one’s work opportunities and/ or skills.
Posted by Wilma De Villiers