Understanding MOOC benefits from public lecture at WOU

Participants were confronted with the topic of “To MOOC or not to MOOC: that is the question” during a public lecture at the main campus today.

Commonwealth of Learning (COL) President and CEO Prof Asha Kanwar shared on the rise of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) in higher education institutions in the past four years, linking it to unemployment, unprecedented demand, escalating cost and fast pace of technological change.

Listening to the public lecture.

Listening to the public lecture.

Listening to the public lecture.She said there were 165 million tertiary students globally in 2012, and this is expected to rise to some 263 million in 2025, elaborating that the rising cost is making higher education increasingly unaffordable.

She noted that those with tertiary qualifications make up 27% of total unemployment in Malaysia, and quoted a local survey which showed that “companies felt that 77.6% of graduates did not have the necessary skills”.

She stated that the big three MOOC platforms are Coursera, Udacity and edX, and that learners take up MOOCs for self-enrichment or for certification for participation. She pointed out that two universities in Malaysia have already started to offer MOOC, one offering a course on Global Entrepreneurship and the other on Malay Arts.

Prof Kanwar.

Prof Kanwar.

She highlighted that 270,000 people signed up for a single Udacity’s Computer Science MOOC course, which is higher than the 200,000 learners who aspire to do computer science courses in nearly 3,000 institutions in the US. She mentioned a 2014 Harvard study that showed only 5% of the 841,687 registrants completed a MOOC course, and another research indicating that MOOCs reach those who already have a degree.

She said that COL had offered a MOOC for Development (M4D) course in which 2,286 signed up from 116 countries. The lesson learnt from this is that it is important to provide high quality materials combined with good teaching; keep the learners engaged; IT platforms must be reliable; MOOC can be achieved without branded platforms like edX; and that you can deliver quality at low cost.

WOU Board of Governors Chairman Tan Sri Emeritus Prof Gajaraj Dhanarajan poses a question.

WOU Board of Governors Chairman Tan Sri Emeritus Prof Gajaraj Dhanarajan poses a question.

She added that MOOC has made higher education readily available, leading to implications for universities in the area of pedagogy, services management (e.g. advanced records management, access to online library, discussion forums) and credentialing (e.g. certificates of completion, badges, and credits).

Prof Kanwar stressed that countries must have a national policy on MOOCs to provide an enabling environment for higher education institutions to offer MOOCs. This policy, she continued, should cover credentialing, MOOCs for skills development and for higher education, having a capable IT infrastructure for institutions, and adopting OER-based materials. She said other sectors are entering the MOOC sphere, and so higher education institutions should seriously ponder on whether “to MOOC or not”.

The talk was attended by over 70 staff from WOU and other local institutions.