In the online education sphere, we are quite familiar with MOOCs, or the Massive Open Online Courses, which have become very popular over the last 10-odd years. MOOCs aim to replicate the traditional classroom environment with video lectures and similar features. Despite being appealing, the concept has been facing certain challenges ever since—the biggest being that the attrition rate of students is high due to lack of personalised training. Another area where MOOCs have been facing obstacles is in accreditation and certification—institutions that offer MOOCs may not necessarily have required accreditation from regulatory bodies.
Enter SPOCs, or the Small Private Online Courses. SPOCs are basically a smaller form of MOOCs accessed online. SPOCs have evolved after considering the limitations of MOOCs. The acronym seems to be new—at least in the Indian context—but the concept isn’t.
SPOCs merge online resources and technology, and enhance personal engagement between faculty and students. SPOCs aim at a relatively smaller group of students, thereby facilitating the use of blended learning, also known as ‘hybrid learning’. Simply put, SPOCs are online courses combined with the provision of personal attention. SPOCs, unlike MOOCs, may be confidential and occasionally chargeable.
At the institution level, SPOCs are implemented with students. Faculty determines the features, type and nature of content that needs to be provided to the students. Faculty may choose to include features such as video lectures, interactive quizzes and assessments with prompt feedback, discussion forums, and interactive labs in the courses.
However, will SPOCs succeed where MOOCs didn’t?
Because they are new and have not been much experimented with, it is debatable whether SPOCs would contribute in revolutionising the pedagogy and facilitation of education or not. However, there is no room for doubt that SPOCs are more promising as compared to MOOCs, especially when we consider aspects such as content delivery and an interactive learning environment.
By Sarika Lidoria
The author is director, ITM University Online