In higher education, 2013 may be remembered as the year of the MOOC. For those playing catch-up, MOOCs, or Massive Open Online Courses, are college-level classes taught entirely over the internet, Penn State News reports. Like students in brick-and-mortar classrooms, students enrolled in MOOCs take notes and tests and participate in discussions. Unlike traditional courses — or even typical online courses — MOOCs are usually free, draw hundreds or even thousands of students, and are run with minimal direct contact with teachers, with an emphasis instead on brief and (presumably) engaging video presentations. Colleges and universities are scrambling to get onboard the MOOC train (hundreds now offer some form of Web-based curriculum) while at the same time debating what the trend means for the future of higher education. Is MOOC-mania justified and are MOOCs here to stay? “We know a lot about teaching small classes and even large lecture classes,” Penn State Associate Professor of English Stuart Selber said. “And we know a lot about creating online courses for the scales we’re used to. But the ‘massive’ part of MOOCs is a new frontier for higher education. We know very little, if anything, about teaching and learning in a context involving tens of thousands of students.”

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