The Impact of Massive Open Online Course in Education

The term MOOC was coined in 2008 by Dave Cornier of the University of Prince Edward Island in response to a course called Connectivism and Connective Knowledge (also known as CCK08) and had emerged as a popular mode of learning by 2012. MOOCs are free online courses available to anyone around the world to enroll. In the impact of massive open online course in education essay this topic will be considered.

The acronym MOOC means Massive Open Online Courses:

  • Massive: Enrollments are unlimited and can run into hundreds of thousands
  • Open: It is open to anyone to enroll
  • Online: The platform is internet based
  • Course: Their goal is to teach a specific subject


Anyone with an internet connection has the freedom to learn new skills in an affordable and flexible way and at their own pace anywhere around the world from renowned experts. Gone are the days when learning was offered only in brick-and-mortar classrooms with bureaucratic obligations but with the technology age, anyone can sit in the comfort of their home and have the opportunity to learn from world class universities and from renowned instructors. The initial philosophy of MOOCs was to open up quality Higher Education to a wider audience. A lot of people, due to lack of funds, did not have access to quality education, especially in developing countries. Other people who could afford it did not have the time due to their busy schedule. MOOCs are designed to bridge this gap, to provide an affordable alternative to formal education and also offer convenience. 

Before the digital age, distance learning was offered in the form of correspondence courses in the 1890s-1920s and later radio and television broadcast of courses and much later to early forms of e-learning whereby traditional schools offer blended courses that incorporate both online and offline learning. Students have the opportunity to watch lectures online at home and work on projects and interact with faculty while in class.However, A MOOC and an online college course may have many similarities, but they are not exactly the same. Below are the similarities and differences between MOOCs and online college courses


  • MOOCs are offered online like some online college classes
  • MOOCs are often taught by the same professors that teach online college classes.
  • MOOC course materials are often exactly the same as the course materials provided to college students taking online classes.
  • MOOCs are sometimes offered in partnership with colleges and universities.


A set of MOOCs can sometimes be offered for academic credit. However, in these instances, the student will have to be officially enrolled in a college or university and pay tuition to receive academic credit for the MOOC.


  • MOOCs are free.
  • MOOCs have unlimited class size.
  • Anyone can enroll in a specific MOOC, even if they’re not “qualified” to take it.
  • Students can start and stop the course at any time, without any formal consequences.
  • Upon completion of the course, a student will not have a tangible or formally recognized degree, certificate or transcript of completion.
  • MOOCs offer self-paced study, allowing students to complete coursework and take tests on their schedule.


While most MOOCs are offered for free, some do require a fee – and that’s why sometimes MOOCs are confused with online college classes or online academic programs. It’s important to remember that paid MOOCs offer a tangible or formally recognized credential, while free MOOCs do not. Free MOOCs don’t offer anything more than the joy of learning something new.

For example, Coursera, one of the major MOOC providers in the world, has a partnership with the University of Illinois to provide an online MBA degree program at a fraction of the cost of the traditional MBA program. Another major MOOC provider, Udacity, has joined with Georgia Tech to offer a Master of Science in Computer Science online degree program. Even though Coursera and Udacity offer paid, degree granting MOOCs, the majority of their course offerings are still free and open to everyone

Who Benefits From MOOCs?


Teachers have the opportunity to update their skills through MOOCs by learning new teaching styles and methods to make them more efficient and to better support their students.


Students benefit tremendously through this platform as MOOCs are convenient and self-paced and do not have the limits imposed on them in a class setting. Students are able to get the extra tutoring they need on a difficult subject. Atimes the teaching style used by a MOOC instructor is preferable to the one offered in class and thus they are able to have a better understanding of a topic.

Working Professionals

A lot of working professionals who have busy schedules and time constraint benefit a lot from MOOCs' self-paced and customizable curriculum features. Professionals who need additional training in order to attain expertise in their field could skip the cost of enrolling in formal education and avoid the inconvenience of physically attending classes in a brick-and-mortar classrooms.


As reasonably expected, parents are invested in their children's well-being and would do anything to ensure their success in school . Such parents who are looking to help their children in a subject where they are falling behind in school can easily sign up for a refresher course on MOOC Platform. Alternatively it could be that the parent has a quest for knowledge and lacks the funds or the time to go back to school.

Business Owners

Business owners, particularly entrepreneurs can benefit a lot from the additional knowledge in areas they are not familiar with to make them more business savvy. For example, an entrepreneur could learn how to file his own taxes by signing up for a taxation course through the MOOC platform or a course in technology in order to be tech-savvy. With the convenience of MOOC, business owners need not take time off away from their business to enroll in a formal class, to avoid loss of income.

Lifelong Learners

This group of learners have an insatiable need for knowledge. They are self motivated and do not necessarily need a degree, diploma or certificate to learn but the time required. MOOCs afford them the opportunity to choose from a wide variety of classes to fulfil this quest for knowledge.

Steps to taking a MOOC

Signing up for a MOOC does not require any complicated process, you can be up and running in a matter of minutes provided you have an email address. But to get the most out of your time and ensure your academic and professional goals are met, one has to keep the following in mind:

Figure out your reason for taking a MOOC:There are different reasons why people take a MOOC. Some people have a quest for knowledge as mentioned earlier, in which case require no certificate, degree or diploma while some actually need the certificate of completion to enable them obtain academic credit, in which case would be prepared to take the course during a set period of time and pay a fee. You have to figure out which situation applies to you and be well informed of the requirements. 

Determine if a prerequisite is required: For the most part prerequisites are not required for MOOCs but there are some advanced MOOC courses(fee paying) that require this. The onus is on the learner to complete the prerequisite, to have a good understanding of the basic concepts, in order to get the most of what the course has to offer. The learner risks not getting the certificate due to poor performance and also losing the fee paid. 

Confirm technical requirements: MOOCs have a wide variety of courses with different technical requirements. Atime it's not just as simple as having an internet connection but there are some specifications you have to take into consideration. For example, some MOOC courses have large data requirements which would need a lot of storage and high speed internet. Also, special software may be necessary to access the course e.g Simply Accounting software by Sage or ACCPAC software. Computers running older operating systems may not be compatible with certain courses.

Register with the MOOC provider: Registration usually consists of just providing a name and email address to set the participant up but for participants who require a certificate of completion or other recognized credit, a formal application may be necessary. It may ask for the individual’s reasons for taking the MOOC, academic history and relevant work experience.

Pay the fee: Most MOOCs are free and those that aren’t often provide some form of recognition upon completion of the MOOC, such as academic credit or a certificate. Sometimes fees may be paid upfront depending on the MOOC,or as the student makes progress through multiple courses.

Apply to the relevant academic institution: Most MOOCs are created by universities but they do not distribute MOOCs themselves, rather they rely on course providers such as Coursera, edX, Futurelearn e.t.c. If there is an expectation that a MOOC offering is for the purpose of obtaining a degree, in which case, the MOOC provider is just responsible for delivering the online course, a formal application to the institute granting the degree will be required.

Advantages of MOOCs

MOOCs creates the opportunity for sharing ideas & knowledge and also helps improving lifelong learning skills by providing easy access to global resources.

It promotes diversity since it involves millions of participants and institution instructors across the globe with cross cultural backgrounds.

It gives immediate feedback on an individual's progress of the course curriculum, relative to other participants, so you know where you start at any given time.

MOOC enhances active learning. The participation level of learners is higher than in traditional institutes as they take ownership of their learning. Learners are more attentive if they have been given a problem or tasks to solve before the lecture rather than the passive learning observed in classrooms where the lecturer would usually do most of the talking and students are not fully engaged. The structure that most MOOCs have – short lectures alternating with assignments and quizzes – seems to be more effective, based on research

MOOC encourages flipping the classroom. Learning is more effective when teachers get to work with students on an individual basis rather than in a group setting, as people have different learning styles and learn at a different pace. The time the teacher spends in front of the class lecturing can be put to better use that would be more effective for the students. Lectures can be watched online at home while interaction with peers and lecturers are given sufficient time while in class.

MOOC platform encourages the coming together of a wide variety of participants around the world to impact knowledge and share ideas on discussion forums. A collaboration that is not possible in a brick-and-mortar classroom. We have a mix of reflective learners, sequential learners, global learners with different learning styles learning from one another. Learners who need clarification on any issue can share their own diverse ideas and easily get others viewpoints and suggestions through the forum.

Since MOOCs do not have any formal exam, they are self-paced, the anxiety students feel around exam periods does not exist in this situation.

The Peer evaluation model used in a lot of the MOOCs is said to be the best way to learn, when you teach or grade someone else. It also serves as motivation for participants to strive to do better since they are going to be evaluated by their peers.

MOOC provides the opportunity to learn from world class universities and from renowned instructors without being a student of the respective university while sitting in any part of the world.

Some MOOCs offer verified certificates to participants, with university logo and instructors signature after payment is received. Individuals seeking employment can present this at the time of job applications and employers are able to go to the MOOC provider's database to verify the individual's attendance and completion of the course

Disadvantages of MOOCs

MOOCs provides all the video lectures and slides along with all related reading resources at the beginning of the course. Although this could be viewed as an advantage, it is also a disadvantage. Students might not go through the materials sequentially as should since everything is made available at once which may be a hindrance to deep understanding of the course concepts. Also students may become quickly overwhelmed with course materials, resulting in a high dropout rate.

Questions students may have while going through the lectures are not answered in real time unlike a classroom setting where responses to questions are provided immediately.

There are some technical courses, such Civil, Mechanical and Electrical, that require physical hands-on practical exposures that can not be delivered through MOOC.

There is no opportunity for effective assessment methods like Q&A in the classroom, surprise quizzes and presentations.

Peer evaluation sometimes leads to discouragement among students which leads them to dropout from the course.

Technology can never be a replacement for the human touch. It is limited in accurately detecting context in human behaviour. MOOC style of education will gradually eradicate the care, empathy and respect involved between teacher and students in a physical classroom. It can be argued that evaluation methods through automatic machine assessments and evaluations are not as effective as human observation

The effectiveness of MOOCs has been questioned over the years as completion rates are substantially less than traditional online education courses. A wide range of researches have been carried out as a result and some of the reasons given are as follows:

  • Lack of proper Introduction to course technology and format
  • Course being too basic or difficult
  • Course required too much time
  • Workload length and difficulty of a cours
  • Clunky technology and abuse on discussion boards
  • Hidden cost, including required readings from expensive textbooks written by the instructor that also significantly limited student's access to learning material.
  • Other non-completers were just shopping around when they registered
  • Others were participating for knowledge rather than a credential



In conclusion, there are many benefits and challenges associated with MOOCs as with anything in life, but overall, one can deduce that the benefits outweigh the problems. Also, E-learning is not for everyone. One has to be disciplined to take any MOOCs course, as they require self motivation and self-regulated learning where there is the expectation that participants would set their own goals to ensure their success. When people have this understanding, dropout rate are likely to decrease

10 October 2022
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