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MOOCs - the Solution of Inflated Higher Education

Updated on January 18, 2014



MOOCs, abbreviated from massive open online courses, have become the most discussed educational topic because they promise higher education to be “better, cheaper and more widely available” across the world (Kirp, 2013, p. 12). MOOCs were invented only back in 2008 but they are reborn in the USA; and they are already expanding more quickly in poorer countries around the world (Raney, 2013).

MOOCs are a form of a free online education for everyone around the world with internet access. They are provided by elite institutions like Harvard, UC Berkeley, MIT, and Stanford. If you observe their quick spread across the world, they are the best technological innovation for education that required the least effort to be applied (Baggaley, 2013). They originate from the North America but they are intended for the underprivileged masses around the globe that lack access to higher quality education (Raney, 2013). For example, more than 65% of MOOC users are from countries like India, Rwanda, China, Brazil (Kamenetz, 2013). Though, MOOCs were invented only back in 2008, MIT Technology Review has already labelled them to be “The Most Important Education Technology in 200 Years”. Plus, the New York Times called 2012 as the “Year of the MOOC”.

So this immediate popularity and impact have led some to argue that MOOCs are just new technology hype. But it’s too early to dismiss MOOCs because they are a significant form of online education; their hype criticism can be used to their advantage; and they are still maturing.

MOOCs Have a Real Impact on Higher Education

The MOOC phenomenon has a real, significant impact – globally, politically and by comparing it with other forms of online education. First of all, higher education is completely changing “into a global activity”; therefore, the MOOCs phenomenon is more powerful and reaching everywhere (Aguaded-Gomez, 2013, p. 7). Even though MOOCs were born in the US, they are expanding more quickly in poorer countries around the world. So, by observing only their quick spread across the world, they are the best technological innovation for education that required the least effort to be applied (Baggaley, 2013).

Second MOOCs have become the educational hot topic for policy-makers. They are considering it as a “paradigm-changing story” for higher education (Kirp, 2013, p. 13). The US President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) “released a letter report” that promotes sustained implementation of MOOCs in the “education technology domain”. The report emphasized how new technology advances could be utilized for solving the “challenges facing America’s higher education system” (The White House, 2013). The implication here is related to how MOOCs would impact developing countries if USA – one of the developed countries – is using it as a way to help address the problems in its educational system.

Third, MOOCs are more preferable than other forms of online education; Baggaley (2013) concluded that “MOOCs tend to be simpler and more impersonal than previous forms of online education” (p. 368). In a word, MOOCs’ impact on higher education will be weighty and continual (Haggard, 2013). Therefore, dismissing MOOCs early as a merely fad shows how their real impact is not evaluated; but rather thought like it is because they are much hyped technology.


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MOOCs are Not a Technology Hype

Calling MOOCs as technology hype is unfavorable; but that can also be used to their advantage. There is a common criticism for all new technologies: hype (Baggaley, 2013). Therefore, this is not a distinct feature only for MOOCs – it is a shared characteristic. Even though some are using it as a criticism, according to Raney (2013), MOOCs “seem to be climbing up the Slope of Enlightenment towards sustainability”. So, this technology hype criticism is also the catalyst for universities to show up their presence on the online higher education game (Kirp, 2013). All these coverage about it by the press, blogs and its founders will continue to burn the fire like “MOOC is a-must innovation”. So, to the advantage of MOOCs and higher education, the hype factor is the rout for more future MOOCs (Haggard, 2013). Therefore, instead of using hype cycle as a criticism, it is more logic to think them as MOOCs’ strongest weapon for its sustainability. This will move them from the experimentation phase to the maturity phase – a phase they already stepped into.

MOOCs are Maturing

MOOCs are in their maturing phase. In a MOOC participants’ literature analysis, participants gave evidence of satisfaction with it and “curiosity about the experience” (Haggard, 2013, p. 12). During its few years of existence, MOOCs already boast alumni with positive experience. Also accreditation issue is already being debated and some “MOOCs beg[a]n to offer accredited learning” (Haggard, 2013, p. 10). This will only further contribute to the worthiness of MOOCs.



This study concludes with the argument that MOOCs need a little more time to prove their worthiness. It is true that there are challenges but according to Orwell, as cited by Shocken (2012), “mistakes are the portals to discovery”. MOOCs have already gained popularity and impact (Haggard, 2013). Even the White House is considering it as a way to address its higher educational problems. So it is just a matter time since they will have a general acceptance.

Second, this study believes that the hype of MOOCs can be used to their advantage. This study found that this criticism is not a distinct feature for MOOCs; but rather it is a shared characteristic for all new technology evolutions. On the contrary, it is this hype of MOOCs that is forcing many universities to join the wave of online education. So the hype cycle is the rout for more future MOOCs.

Finally, and most importantly, this study ends with the statement that MOOCs have passed from the experimentation phase to the maturity phase. It boasts an alumnus that report both satisfaction and positive experience. And it is already trying to solve some of its flaws like accreditation (Haggard, 2013).


  1. Aguaded-Gomez, I. (2013). The MOOC Revolution: A new form of education from the technological paradigm? Communicar , pp. 7-8.
  2. Baggaley, J. (2013). REFLECTION: MOOC rampant. Distance Education , pp. 368-378.
  3. Daniel, J. (2012). Making sense of MOOCs: Musings in a maze of myth, paradox and possibility. Seoul: Korean National Open University.
  4. Haggard, S. (2013). The Maturing of the MOOC. London: Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.
  5. Kamenetz, A. (2013, November 14). The MOOC Evolution. The Weekly Wonk. Retrieved January 12, 2014, from
  6. Kirp, D. L. (2013, September 23). TECH MANIA GOES TO COLLEGE. The Nation , pp. 12-17.
  7. Pappano, L. (2012, November 2). The Year of the MOOC. Retrieved December 16, 2013, from
  8. Raney, K. (2013). MOOCs Help the Global Poor. MOOCs – Think Massively. Retrieved January 14, 2014, from
  9. Regalado, A. (2012, November 2). The Most Important Education Technology in 200 Years. MIT Technology Review. Retrieved December 17, 2013, from
  10. The White House. (2013, December 18). PCAST Considers Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) and Related Technologies in Higher Education. Retrieved January 14, 2014, from


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      Afrah 3 years ago