MOOCs: Still Big News for International Learners
“We shouldn’t underestimate how important MOOCs can still be for global students”
Clarissa Shen, vice president of Udacity, recently declared MOOCs dead, “a failed product,” sparking yet another round of commentary in the blogosphere. While it is true that MOOCs have neither saved nor destroyed higher education as we know it (as was predicted early on), they are far from dead, writes Laurie Pickard, author of “Don’t pay for your MBA” and nopaymba.com.
The number of online courses continues to grow, and the number of students registering for and completing them continues to tick upward. More than 23 million people registered for a MOOC in 2016. 2017’s numbers haven’t yet been published, but data from the MOOC search engine Class Central suggests that more than 80 million people have taken at least one MOOC. Importantly, people around the world are still learning that MOOCs exist. For these new learners, MOOCs aren’t old news. They are still exciting, new, and full of potential.
I still remember my own excitement when I first learned that top-tier universities were offering free versions of their classes. I felt I needed a business education to further my career, but I wasn’t interested in getting into debt to fund an MBA.
I was living in Nicaragua at the time, working in international development and preparing for a move to East Africa. For me, a professional living and working in developing countries, MOOCs offered a phenomenal opportunity to get a world-class education at an affordable price. I decided to replicate the MBA course for course, internship for internship, using MOOCs as the backbone of my curriculum. I called the project the No-Pay MBA, and I created a blog to chronicle the experience.
“One trend that is not much discussed is the advent of regional MOOC platforms. Japan, China, Russia, Korea, Indonesia, Mexico, among others, all now have their own”
As an English-speaking, university educated professional who could afford a reliable internet service, I undoubtedly had an easier time accessing a MOOC education than my colleagues and neighbours in Rwanda or Nicaragua. While the existence of free and low-cost courses may not be a sufficient step towards meeting the educational needs of all people around the world, we shouldn’t underestimate how important MOOCs can still be for global students.
Students preparing to study abroad in the US or elsewhere can reap tremendous value from classes in English and writing. They can also get valuable exposure to what university classrooms are like, how professors speak, and the kinds of assignments they might encounter when studying abroad.
“For those working in international education there are still tremendous opportunities”
Those who are studying in their home countries can add a valuable global perspective by supplementing their studies with MOOCs. Adding a few MOOCs to their curriculum can also ensure that the quality of their education meets an international standard.
Likewise, professionals looking to sharpen their skills or add new skills to their repertoires may find MOOCs better suited to their needs than in-person training courses.
Additionally, one trend that is not much discussed is the advent of regional MOOC platforms. Japan, China, Russia, Korea, Indonesia, Mexico, and Thailand, among others, all now have their own MOOC platforms. Some of these platforms are government supported. All of them offer classes in the local language and are designed to meet the needs of local learners.
For those working in international education there are still tremendous opportunities to help learners find the courses that can help them reach their goals, to create in-person learning networks, and to ensure that learners get the support they need to succeed at distance learning.
In short, it is too early to write off MOOCs, particularly when it comes to international education.