The Honeymoon’s Over: Why MOOC’s Will Never Replace Classrooms

by Michael Pacitti

Over the past few years, massive open online courses, or “MOOC’s” have seen a large increase in enrollment. Since 2010, enrollment has increased by 29% in all online courses while the enrollment in traditional colleges and universities has been in decline. The increase is due in large part to the easily-accessible content that higher education businesses like edX and Coursera have provided (combined they have 6 million registered users). Despite these growing numbers, it appears as if the bandwagon is slowing down.

Even though MOOC’s are in the earliest stages of development and implementation, they have already begun to show a lack of positive results. A Columbia University study found that “nearly twice as many students dropped out than their counterparts who took the same courses in conventional classrooms. The online students also got lower grades and were less likely to ultimately graduate.” With negative results already showing this early in the process, MOOC’s may end up being a passing fad.

Trying to replace the classroom learning experience with a computer screen is a mistake. Technological advances are meant to enhance the learning experience, not overtake it. Staring at a computer screen and watching someone give a lecture is not the same experience as sitting in a room and being able to interact with the teacher right then and there. Although it may seem more efficient to simply archive class lectures and ask students to watch them it takes away from the feeling that a student has invested in their education. This is not to say that MOOC’s do not have their benefits- the fact that it has spurred a discussion in the higher education community on reform is a great bonus. However, the notion that MOOC’s can effectively replace the experience in a classroom is just not practical.

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