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The importance of MOOCs

Drew Becker
Staff Writer

Many upperclassmen have found themselves in at least one online course, for one reason or another, during their tenure at Millersville. Many also know someone who has progressed through entire programs completely online.
Services like iTunes U, Coursera, and edX have posted courses, mostly free, online. A student, short of tests and certain handouts, can complete a 15 week series of Ivy League lectures for free.
This has irritated those paying for the courses at the universities, but a simple evaluation proves MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) are quite different than the formal education paid for by those who are irritated.
The possibility of observing an entire course’s series of lectures for free, as well as following along with all class materials, has made it possible for even the least fortunate to learn without financial limitations. Many see this as a primary tool to a more educated globe.
I think we must not forget however, our employers are not quite ready to accept this phenomenon. Although many employers are fine with a few online courses, or even an entire online graduate program, they have yet to accept an undergrad claiming an unquantifiable degree.
For those of us that have taken at least one online course at Millersville we know that there is an entirely different strategy when taking the course. No longer is complete memorization for tests and attending class necessary, but quick searching and great notes are the key to success.
For these very reasons I think we must accept that although MOOCs are great resources, they are best used today only to supplement, not to substitute, a traditional university’s program. This does not mean that those not attending a university, or in an unrelated field, cannot benefit.
Being an educated individual is too many times quantified by degrees, rather than seen as the knowledge one holds. We must accept the quantification of degrees, but employers, individuals, and our peers will respect and accept our knowledge, regardless of how it was acquired, as long as we can prove it in time.
The traditional brick and mortar schools are what businesses and individuals know best, and for years to come it will unfortunately stay that way. Until research is completed to prove, which may be impossible, that these courses are equivalent or quantifiable, no changes will be made.
This upsets many, but we must not forget that many of MOOCs benefits are immeasurable. The poor, yet determined, are able to learn more about the world from prestigious organizations for free. An understanding of the world around us can open many eyes, and have the potential to create peaceful, productive, and revered individuals.
This distinction must be made, and until then the true power will remain untapped. The mindset of an education having to be objective must disappear; MOOCs give the unfortunate an opportunity to become educated without any financial, situational, or physical barriers.