MOOC Creators Defend Role in Online Education

Massive open online courses (MOOCs) are a major focus of debate on American campuses. Some faculty say that they promise results they cannot deliver, while others praise them for bringing learning into the technological age.

The Campaign for the Future of Higher Education (CFHE) has sent statements to the heads of Coursera, Udacity and edX stating the companies are making claims about online higher education that are "overblown, misleading, or simply false." The group of faculty leaders asks whether or not Internet education providers are offering adequate help to groups of students. These groups include those in rural communities and underdeveloped countries with little or no Internet access, reports Allie Bidwell for USNews.

The CFHE has clashed with online education providers before. The group released three statements last October that asked how private funds influenced higher education, writes Bidwell. One of these papers insisted that the private companies' goal is to venture into online education to grow their bottom lines and not to assist in expanding access. A second paper questioned whether or not the promises of an online education saving money were actually true, according to a release from Columbia University. The third said that online classes halted education for lower income students.

"The excitement that equates any innovation with the capacity to be a silver bullet and solve all of our problems is just a huge concern of ours," Lillian Taiz, a professor at California State University, Los Angeles and president of the California Faculty Association, says regarding the CFHE campaign. "[We] really felt we had to get into this conversation to try and bring people out of wonderland and into reality, where the truth is you don't get something of value unless you do it thoughtfully."

Some of the online education providers are answering back, says Bidwell. The chief executive officer of edX, Anant Agarwal, said that MOOCs are still an upcoming technology and he welcomes the different points of view regarding future of higher education.

"We are literally giving away our platform for free. At edX, we are focused on people not profit, and we welcome all points of view and dialogue about promoting the advancement of education both online and on campus," Agarwal says in a statement.

Coursera co-founder and President Daphne Koller answered the critics by looking to the company's Learning Hubs system, writes Bidwell. This system says gives a free online connection to hundreds of different places around the globe. Also, Coursera is working on creating apps for both Android and iOS, and claims that of the world's 7 billion people, 6 billion have access to mobile devices, Koller noted.

"Our current student population speaks for itself: 33% of our learners are from the developing world, 3% are from the African continent, and 25% do not have a bachelor's degree," Koller says.

When it comes to the completion rates of MOOCs, when students demonstrate they are dedicated to completing a course, Koller says the completion rate is greater than 60%.


05 21, 2014
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