Don’t let MOOCs become the standard

mooc016Massively open online courses have been the new hot topic in education, but their enormity will cause the classes to fail before their potential is fully developed.


MOOCs are experimental large-scale online courses aiming at interactive participation and open access through the web. In addition to traditional course materials such as videos, readings, and problem sets, MOOCs provide interactive user forums that help build a community for students, professors, and teacher assistants.


Although MOOCs sound great in theory, many problems still need to be addressed. Online classes are for the student who knows how to manage their time. Students need to make their own schedule to study a subject and not fall behind. The problem is most people do not know to handle their time.


In Fall 2012, statewide distance education had a success rate of 61 percent while traditional classes had success rate of 71 percent. All of the small problems that online classes have are increased tenfold when MOOCs are involved.


Verification is one of the more challenging aspects of having MOOCs. With thousands of students per course, it’s hard to know if the work being turned in belongs to the enrolled student. A student can pay their smart friend to do their English course for them, the teacher has no basis to know if this is truly someone’s work.


Teachers cannot take on thousands of students and expect them to pass. With so many students, how is Mr. Thompson supposed to notice that Becky is falling be- hind in his class? He doesn’t. The student has to be solely responsible for the course they take. Educators help students when they see them struggling, but you cannot see struggle through a screen.


According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, out of 35,000 students that were enrolled in a MOOC, only 2,500 students passed the class. Less than 10 percent of students had a passing grade. This statistic shows that MOOCs are not effective.


Hybrid classes seem to be get- ting it right by combining online courses with traditional courses. Students get to learn from a tool that has been available most of our lives, while still getting the help and interaction from a teacher.


The most promising MOOC so far are the San Jose State pilot programs available for credit that started in January. The courses are open to San Jose students and local high school students. One program has the university working with Udacity, a company co-founded by a Stanford professor. The program has round the clock online tutors that are hired and trained by the company and hopes to help more students complete three fully online basic math courses. Early signs seem promising, so in the summer, Udacity and San Jose State are expanding the classes to 1,000 students and adding courses in psychology and computer programming. Tuition for courses are $150.


MOOCs do not have the proper structure to succeed yet. The idea is there, but nothing is holding it up. Online classes have the potential to be a big portion of our future education, but not until its many problems are fixed.