The threat of MOOCs

Online courses are an important challenge to our higher education model.

Editorial board

 

As Massive Open Online Courses become more prevalent, many in higher education are worried for the increased competition.

MOOCs challenge the traditional higher education model by providing access to learning without the overhead of a physical school. This certainly causes a conflict when students are asked to pay thousands in tuition, sometimes for a degree that won’t yield job placement or even personal satisfaction. Yet, institutions have little to fear from MOOCs, at least not at the moment.

Currently, MOOCs are available from private companies, as well as public and private universities throughout the world. Even the University of Minnesota has expressed interest in developing MOOCs. Yet MOOCs are just one product in the business of higher education in which the University, for example, is simply a more expensive product. With a university, you access a community — such as the Big Ten — and take an active role in a social education environment.

MOOCs are important because they are indicative that higher education is too expensive and should be accountable for its effectiveness — which should be a reminder to all. They exist because some have realized it is valuable to gain education, though at a high cost of losing many important extraneous attributes of a university.

While it is important for MOOCs to be available for those that find them effective and cost-efficient, the marketplace of higher education has little to fear from these courses. However, the concept of MOOCs is ultimately one that the physical higher education model must react to in order to create a more effective and efficient system of learning for its consumers — students.