Massive open online courses (MOOCs), despite enthusiastic support from many educational higher-ups, won’t gain widespread acceptance until teachers and professors embrace the experimental classes as a viable educational model.
That’s according to Anant Agarwal, president of the Harvard-MIT online learning platform edX, who spoke candidly about the uncertain future of MOOCs in a recent interview with The Independent.
Agarwal, who stressed that children born today with keyboards and computer tablets “pinned to their fingertips” would one day learn in a MOOC-like environment, said that like any major change in education, MOOCs would have to gain major support among those teaching the courses.
“If teachers don’t embrace it [MOOCs], there is no hope of going anywhere… this is the world that today’s children are being brought up in,” he said during a visit to the United Kingdom, where he asked colleges and universities to try the controversial classes.
“My message would be to try them out and, if you don’t like them, flush them down the Thames,” he said at a seminar organized by the think tank Education Foundation.
Agarwal said that the massive courses, which have drawn the ire of faculty members and labor unions in the US, were in their “very, very early days” and would likely undergo a number of changes in coming years.
He added that MOOCs shouldn’t be isolated to higher education.
“Two- and three-year-olds love video games and they’re able to play with iPads – all they have to do is wipe their fingers over the keyboard,” he said. “That’s happening already in the home and it would be really fun for them to use those skills in the kindergarten.”
Agarwal is the second MOOC backer to clarify what MOOCs are, and what they should be in educational circles.
Sebastian Thrun, CEO of MOOC platform Udacity, reassured educators that the massive courses were never meant to replace traditional college classes — a widespread concern in many faculty circles.
“Part of the problem of the public dialogue is that some people have very quickly moved forward to tout what we do as a kind of replacement for college,” Thrun said in a recent podcast interview. “Which has unnecessarily polarized the field.”