Why flexible online instruction beats MOOCs

Two years ago, massive open online courses, known as MOOCs, burst on to the education scene when Stanford University offered a free introductory course in artificial intelligence that attracted more than 120,000 students from around the globe, Newsday reports.

MOOC enrollees now run into the millions, and more students are coming aboard every day.

The excitement of online education is redefining academics in the 21st century and providing the impetus to rethink two issues: How students acquire and retain knowledge, and how they can apply what they’ve learned to succeed in the workplace.

In a technologically driven world, information is available at the click of a mouse and cutting-edge knowledge changes every second. Technologically savvy education that engages students will enable them to master knowledge online, in a classroom, through independent reading or in other ways.

Collaborative learning, discussion, case-study analysis and mentoring are essential for developing critical thinking, problem-solving and strategic-planning skills. The best classrooms enable students to master a body of knowledge, think critically, solve problems, and eventually become valuable contributors to the workforce and society.

That brings us back to MOOCs. Let’s distinguish between MOOCs and online education. MOOCs — offered by sites including Coursera, Udacity and Edx — enroll millions of students around the world, and their founders have received multi-million-dollar investments from venture capitalists. But they may prove to be nothing more than false idols.

While it’s impressive to offer a class to 100,000 students, it is unclear whether this is education or a new form of entertainment.

… New software offers dynamic ways to present static material. Gaming technology is being used to model business scenarios. Students can start and run a fictional business using mobile apps or develop back-end technology needed to run such an enterprise.

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