One year ago, many were pointing to the growth of massive open online courses, or MOOCs, as the most important trend in higher education, NPR reports.

Many saw the rapid expansion of MOOCs as a higher education revolution that would help address two long-vexing problems: access for underserved students and cost.

In theory, students saddled by rising debt and unable to tap into the best schools would be able to take free classes from rock star professors at elite schools via Udacity, edX, Coursera and other MOOC platforms.

But if 2012 was the “Year of the MOOC,” as The New York Times , 2013 might be dubbed the year that online education fell back to earth. Faculty at several institutions rebelled against the rapid expansion of online learning — and the nation’s largest MOOC providers are responding.

Earlier this year, San Jose State University partnered with Udacity to offer several types of for-credit MOOC classes at low cost. The partnership was announced in January with lots of enthusiastic publicity, including a plug from California Gov. Jerry Brown, who said MOOC experiments are central to democratizing education.

“We’ve got to invest in learning, in teaching, in education,” he said. “And we do that not by just the way we did it 100 years ago. We keep changing.”

… A recent confirmed a massive problem: MOOCs have painfully few active users. About half who registered for a class ever viewed a lecture, and completion rates across all courses.

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eCampus News staff and wire reports


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