A call to clarify the intention of MOOCs

On Monday, Cornell launched its first Massive Open Online Course — ASTRO2290x: Relativity and Astrophysics — for several hundred viewers, The Cornell Daily Sun reports.

Cornell initially announced MOOC offerings with the intention of providing everyone with the chance to learn from an Ivy League institution for free. However, Cornell has never articulated a set plan to attract, retain and maintain the quality of education for these virtual students.

The University continuously markets MOOCs as a step toward accessible education, but in light of criticism from some national experts and the debate over the initial success, we ask Cornell to concretely define the proposed plan for the future sustainability of the program and to identify how this program will benefit Cornell students.

One of the main concerns with MOOCs, as highlighted by Prof. David Chernoff, astronomy, who is teaching Cornell’s first MOOC, is that the online platform the University uses to host the MOOCs, edX, does not allow for face-to-face interaction between professors and students.

He noted that the “give-and-take” of a normal class is harder to simulate in an online session. This one-way communication remains a concern for the future success of the MOOCs program, as many students cite that interactions with professors are one aspect that they enjoy about classroom learning.

We are concerned about the number of viewers who will continue to watch the MOOCs once the novelty wears off and the professor has no way to motivate them to stay.

In an editorial from Oct. 3, 2012, we acknowledged that, “MOOCs simply allow more people to engage with higher education.”

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eCampus News Staff