Saturday, April 20, 2013

Choosing Massive Online Open Classrooms Designed for Students

By Sean Scarpiello

As education professionals start to move their classrooms online, we are hearing more about massive online open classrooms, or MOOCs. Programs such as Udacity and Coursera are just two of these new MOOC projects that have thus far been received favorably. Among all of these different MOOCs, each offers different classes as well as different types of structure. Therefore, each program comes with its own benefits and disadvantages. Getting to know the ins and outs of all of the different MOOCs can really help out students, as they will be able to derive the most benefits by attending MOOCs that are tailored to their learning style.

First, the structure of each program plays the biggest role in a student’s success in MOOCs. To look at the two most popular MOOCs currently, Udacity and Coursera, it is stunning to see how different each program’s structure is designed. Udacityhas a much more open structure: classes start and stop on the student’s time. Therefore, students can complete an entire course in a just few days or across a few years. This offers students immense flexibility as they do not need to wait on the teacher to assign more work, and they can move at their own pace. Also, students who may require more time to complete projects may benefit from this as they are allowed as much time as they need to do their work. While this can be extremely beneficial, these benefits can also turn into disadvantages for the student. With no due dates or deadlines for projects and tests, there are many students that may just put off coursework for a day, then a week, then a month, until nothing gets done. When it is up to the student to set and keep to deadlines, it is often difficult to keep up with these set deadlines, as they can be pushed back easily. Therefore, in programs set up to be overly flexible, such as Udacity, students can put off work indefinitely if they do not have the best work ethic and can’t stick to their own goals.

On the other hand, there are other MOOCs that are set up with a much stricter class structure. In MOOCs like Coursera, new assignments are given out every week. This gives students an entire week to work on coursework which is due by a certain time. This is beneficial in that it is set up most like real classrooms where there are due dates the entire class must abide by, and students have to push themselves to meet these deadlines. I wouldn’t say that this structure is better designed for slackers, but when students are held to their teacher’s set goals, there is less wavering from these goals. For example, everyone has been in a position where they wish they had an extra day to study for a test, where in reality not much studying went on during that extra day extension. On the other hand, these types of structures offer much less flexibility. Students who want to complete the course quickly will be forced to wait on the teacher to assign more work, while slower students may not have enough time to complete all of their required coursework in the limited time.

Keeping in mind these two basic types of structures, there are plenty of MOOCs that have structure which falls between these two extremes. For students looking to derive the most benefits from their learning experience, it is important to research and choose the best structure that accommodates individual needs and learning styles. Students with strong work ethics who want to get a lot done should choose a different MOOC structure than a student who wants to work slowly or who are taking the class for leisure. Therefore, it is extremely important that the class fits the goals of the student. As more MOOCs make it to the internet in the future, we can be sure to see just how different each program is set up, so it is even more important to ensure that students get what they want out of class by choosing programs designed for their learning style.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It is very nice blog. You have covered all the benefits of online education. These efforts can give such a boom to the online education.
Keep it up!