Thursday, August 25, 2016

Self-paced online courses outside of the well known college based MOOC offerings

The blogster loves the world of online learning, from the sometimes a little dodgy Wikipedia to the classy classes offered by some of the most prestigious schools on the planet.
The field is diverse and complex. A lot of effort has gone into it, and not all that much money has been made. Teachers find themselves in the limelight, some do great, others struggle and drop out - just like their students. Credentials have been added, including convenient links to professional networking site LinkedIn. The blogster doesn't have figures on the percentage of students who complete credentials. Given that the total enrollment in a course can easily be tens of thousands, it would certainly be fun to see credentials figures. While teaching can scale, how do you scale grading? It's a multiple choice world, isn't it?

The two great promises since the early days of distance education were "study anywhere" and "study anytime".
Study anywhere has become a reality if - and it is still a big if for many countries - you have internet access.

Study anytime is more ambiguous and depends on how classes are set up and the underlying objectives. If we look at the required study time between the start date and the end date of a course, study anytime has been mostly achieved. Students can often study before work, after work, on weekends, etc. and still get the benefit of being able to contact the teacher and/or tutors when they need.
Still, you have to get a certain amount of learning and testing - for certification - done within a set period.

Which leaves us with self-paced courses. Without fixed start and end dates, without set milestones and "mid-terms", you can call self-paced courses the "ultimate" study anytime classes.
It comes as no surprise that self-paced study offerings make up a very small part of the offerings of well known online education sites like Coursera, edX, or the smaller European iversity. Coming from the structured institutionalized education of traditional colleges and universities, fully self-paced courses have not been a priority for them. They can also claim that many topics are not well suited for independent study. This is reflected in the subject matter of many traditional self-paced or self-study courses: "soft sciences", such as history, art, literature, social studies.

Expanding self-paced study into fields considered more challenging has been left mostly to newcomers.

True study anytime offerings include Khan Academy,  duolingo, or (to a large extent) Udacity. On those and similiar sites, the supporting role of teachers and tutors in helping students resolve questions and improve learning is predominantly peer based, with fellow students helping each other in forums under the more or less loose supervision of dedicated staffers.

In addition to holding their own, sites like Khan and Udacity can also help people to get back into the "mechanics" of learning before embarking on more structured ventures.

If you miss comparable European providers, tell us about them.

No comments:

Post a Comment