I blogged some weeks ago about the phenomena known as MOOCs – Mass Online Open Courses.
This is certainly an innovation worth following as it represents universities throughout the world given open access to their course content. The idea is that anyone who wishes, as an independent learner, can now follow a whole range of university undergraduate and postgraduate courses for free. So far, so good as this seems to be the instant antidote to the costs associated with higher education study that blight those with limited economic means in every country in the world.
If there is a catch, it is that although the course content is made freely available there is no accreditation for individual units or qualification at the end of the course of study. Some have argued that MOOCs are a cynical marketing activity designed to convert those studying for free into undergraduates paying fees. I would be inclined to be more charitable than that, as well as suggesting that to have world-class learning opportunities freely available to those with internet access is, of itself a good thing. Think, for example, how a secondary school teacher can use such online courses to stretch his or her students beyond what is available to the class teacher constrained by old pedagogies and materials. Indeed, there might be an industrial scale task of mapping online courses to national curriculum models to provide a bank of enrichment materials to allow students to extend their learning into self supported study elements.
Here is an example of how universities structure their MOOC offering; this particular examples comes from the University of Queensland: QUT | Introduction to Robotics