Effectiveness Of MOOCs stirs debate about online learning

“Massive open online courses,” or MOOCs — the fast-growing movement to put higher-education courses online for free, have gotten the attention of President Obama, WGBH reports.

“Universities like Carnegie Mellon, Arizona State, they’re starting to show that online learning can help students master the same material in less time and often at lower costs,” Obama said recently.

But the jury is still out on the effectiveness of online courses: Are they worth the hype or a passing fad?

At Bunker Hill Community College in Charlestown second-year computer science student Osa Ohiomoba sinks into a chair in the student lounge, his fingers dancing across his laptop, his eyes fixed on zeros and ones on his screen.

While other students buzz around him playing ping-pong and chatting, Osa stays focused on his computer screen, watching a highly-produced online video seminar. He’s taking a massive open online course on how to write computer code for programs that you might take for granted.

“When I get bored or finish a section, I’ll get up and play a game,” Osa said. “Come back. See what I’ve absorbed … If I’ve absorbed enough, ­I’m feeling good,­ I’ll move on to the next section.”

But what if he’s not feeling good about the material?

“I won’t be down here,” he said. “I’ll usually be in the library or somewhere else.”

Osa can be anywhere — at a coffee shop or in his bedroom in his pajamas. MOOCs like the one he’s taking are mobile.

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