Massive open online courses (MOOCs) have become a surging trend in higher education, and traditional academic programs are scrambling to figure out where that trend is headed. These virtual courses are taught by accredited professors from around the world to disseminate content, inspire collaboration and assess students' work. Unlike a one-way series of YouTube tutorials, MOOCs have start and end dates just like a traditional physical course, and students can be evaluated—and in some cases certified—for their work.
Colleges and universities are partnering with MOOC institutions, such as Coursera and edX, to afford their students and other do-it-yourself learners the opportunity to supplement their education.
See what these five names in MOOCs are doing to enhance the online learning experience:
Coursera, a leader among companies offering MOOCs, is a for-profit organization that partners with universities to provide free online courses. The company works with Stanford University, the University of Edinburgh, and the University of Virginia, as well as 13 other top schools around the world.
Classes include short video lectures and weekly assignments. The virtual platform allows distinguished professors to teach thousands of students, each learning at their own pace and using interactive exercises to test their knowledge. From the social sciences to mathematics, Coursera aims to have every student master course material, move traditional classroom lectures outside of campus buildings and develop peer assessment.
A product of the partnership between the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University, the not-for-profit company edX will offer free online courses on a variety of topics. The learning platform, set to launch this fall, follows in the footsteps of MITx, a similar e-learning site started by MIT, and offers Harvardx, MITx, and BerkeleyX classes online without charge.
EdX will emphasize self-paced and wiki-based collaborative learning, online laboratories, and other interactive features. While students will not receive credit for taking edX courses, they will have the option of obtaining a certificate of completion.
Sebastian Thrun’s private online educational organization Udacity seeks to “democratize” education. The site advocates four key elements that distinguish it from other online learning platforms. As a free service, anyone can take one of their 11 courses, join a growing community of learners and educators, have their resume sent to one of Udacity’s partner companies, and for a fee receive a certificate of completion. Classes include “Intro to Physics,” “Software Testing” and “Applied Cryptography.”
The growing trend of MOOC companies in the United States caught the attention of the EU’s Erasmus program, and the education and training program announced that possibility of developing similar platforms for European universities. Adam Tyson, head of the Erasmus unit for higher education at the European Commission commented, “What we want to do is offer any courses supported by Erasmus are made open source.” Among the many benefits Erasmus hopes to enjoy from a blended program is ease accessibility for elderly and part-time working students. Erasmus plans to work with top European universities to develop the technology necessary to create a portal for MOOCs.
5. ACADEMIC ROOM
Academic Room’s platform “allows academics, researchers, and students to create highly specialized portals for their subfields.” Co-founder and Chief Executive Sarabjot Kaur’s goal is to give anyone anywhere the opportunity to take college-level courses and have access to educational content that they otherwise could not afford. Courses are separated into six topics: humanities, social sciences, physical sciences, life sciences, healthcare and professions. Academic Room’s content is exclusively structured around academic disciplines and features professional directories, scholarly articles, ancient manuscripts and audio recordings.
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