ACE addresses MOOCs’ potential

MOOCs can reach a wide range of students.

MOOC–better known to some as a massive open online course–was the unofficial buzzword of the American Council on Education’s (ACE) Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C. on March 4 and 5, and university presidents say that MOOCs could help expand learning opportunities to students and professionals.

During the conference, one seminar featured a panel of two MOOC platform designers and two university representatives who expressed their views on how MOOCs can enhance higher education without discrediting traditional brick-and-mortar institutions.

Coursera co-founder Daphne Koller said MOOCs can alleviate issues of scale and capacity that universities across the country are facing. One way to make MOOCs cost-effective is to continuously cycle the same professors and courses online, but expand student access.

Koller asserted that MOOCs promote self-paced learning, and in turn, provide a much more solid foundation for continuing education.

“We have seen a considerable improvement in learning outcomes,” she said. “In some ways, [MOOCs] transcend the way students would interact with an instructor.”

She estimated that approximately 80 percent of Coursera students already have higher education degrees, and that they take MOOCs to gain diversified skills to get a leg up over their job competitors. One of the greatest benefits of MOOCS vs. traditional courses is the uniquely rich, globally expansive social communities that develop among students. For the first time in history, students living all over the world are able to connect and communicate with one another at rates of lightning-fast immediacy.

(Next page: How college presidents view MOOCs.)