There is a lot of buzz around the massive open online courses (MOOCs) these days. When the Ivy Leagues like the Harvards and the MITs, traditionally considered elitist, open up their curriculum for mass consumption and that too free of cost, there is bound to be some commotion in the market. Justin Marquis of OnlineUniversities.com calls MOOCs as “the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. They are the opium of the people. The abolition of MOOCs as the illusory happiness of the people is the demand for their real happiness.” Some insist that MOOCs are a bubble that will burst, while others like Coursera and FutureLearn that have received investments to foster learning through MOOCs think otherwise.
Marina Gorbis of the Institute for the Future (IFTF) calls MOOCs a disruptive innovation that will enable replacement of current model of education gateways (that permit or restrain the social mobility) by a model where learning is best conceived as a flow where learning resources are abundant and not scarce, and a learner autonomously takes a dip in and out of the continuously available learning flows.
During a recent conference on transferring Indian education through MOOCs, Prof MM Pant, Prof Marmar Mukhopadhyay and the likes called upon the policymakers to support the spread of MOOCs and the educators to own up technology-enabled education in a major way.
So, the question arises, is this really that serious an intervention? Is this a disruptive innovation? Is there something really unique about this pedagogy that the educator needs to worry? After all, distance education and online courses have been there for ages, so what’s new? And if it is threatening, why have the educators really innovated this? Why aren’t the perpetrators worried?
Responding to the latter first, it is important to note that all the schools that have opened their curriculum to MOOCs follow the participant-centred learning approach. This approach considers the student a motivated learner and the faculty a facilitator for learning. They challenge the ‘sage on stage’ and encourage the faculty to ‘be the guide on the