Participants at the Massive Open Online Courseware 2016 programme in Universiti Malaysia Terengganu. Networking is key to massive open online courses.

ARE massive open online courses (MOOC) for real?

I refer to a call by Higher Education Minister Datuk Seri Idris Jusoh for students of higher learning institutions to use the online learning method to obtain more than one degree.

MOOC was launched by the ministry in September 2014 with more than 60 free online courses offered through www.OpenLearning.com to university students and the public. It was part of the “Soaring Upwards” programme, which disseminates information on the development of the country’s higher education.

MOOC is one part of the revolution brought by Web 2.0, aimed at increasing demand for higher education, helping universities facing funding cuts, and assisting students struggling to pay tuition fees, overcoming the changing demographics of learners, and enhancing access to the Internet and information technology.

Dave Cormier, of University of Manitoba, introduced the term in 2008 to describe Siemens and Downes “Connectivism and Connective Knowledge” course, which is in line with the concept of flipped classroom.

A key innovation in MOOC is networking. This is changing the traditional teaching and learning system as it eliminates hierarchy.

The fact is, MOOC is lacking in face-to-face communication of small university classes as well as interaction between students and professors.

Though replaced by online forums, the massiveness of the courses represents a major obstacle for learners and educators.

No doubt, MOOC enriches the learning process via various channels, but it is not interchangeable with the real campus.

Critics assert that MOOC does not provide quality education as that of traditional universities, encounters assessment problems, and has high dropout and cheating rates.

MOOC presents a facelift for the higher education system, where the main innovation is scaling because the economies of Internet allow for the dissemination of quality education.

Networks are replacing the hierarchy of university education, transforming the role of professor and student so that they become interchangeable. Participation and interaction are crucial in defusing hierarchy.

The challenges facing MOOC include quality, assessment and how the models may be monetised.

AZIZI AHMAD,  
Kuala Lumpur

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