A famous Greek philosopher, Heraclitus, once said “The only thing that is constant is change.” This short, yet profound wisdom has been proven countless times in the evolution of education. Generation X, my generation, did not have the luxury of emails and instant messaging and thus for us the best way to educate is to gather students within a classroom on daily basis. The millennial generation, on the other hand, is brought up differently. They are completely comfortable with online technology and the ability to interact instantly regardless of their distances with one another. This change in communication brings about an innovation called MOOC or known better as Massive Open Online Course. However, like any innovation, MOOC has a fair share of pros and cons compared to the conventional learning method. In this article, I would like to explain the benefit of MOOC and how we can fully embrace and utilize it.
Online learning, as the name suggested, is an educational method of distant visual interaction, usually via digital media. Rather than having students walk into class and watch lectures, open online course provides scheduled videos and posts a set of interactive questions at the end of each section. The absence of physical interaction encourages student to be active learner who seeks out solutions rather than absorbing materials as a whole. The idea of interactive question is very powerful because it does not emphasize on getting the right answer in the shortest time possible, but rather in underlying the right mindset in approaching the problem. I believe that active learning can effectively improve retention because it strongly relates to the depth of mental processing. Student will be able to improve one’s learning experience when interacting with the material and in turn, gains better understanding and is able to exercise their knowledge into practical use.
A particularly interesting feature of online learning is the idea of self-pacing. In conventional classroom, students often find situations where teachers talk too fast, have thick foreign accent or skip several important theoretical analysis. These situations can be intimidating and students tend to switch their focus to scrambling to take notes, skipping the chance to critically analyse the depth of the subject conveyed by their professors. The loss of interactions can lead to the difficulty in understanding the subject and even potentially drain the enthusiasm away from learning as a whole. In MOOC, the idea of self-pacing is very intuitive because current video format enable its user to pause, rewind or replay the video. Students are given the ability to pause the video to digest certain points on the lecture, rewind any particular point and even mute the video to focus on body language or any particular things. This is beneficial for because students are given the opportunity to learn critically according to their own learning style.
MOOC is also a powerful learning portal because of the presence of forums. When you are taking a course in MOOC, the chances are you will meet thousands of people currently taking the class from different parts of the world. Interacting people from different time zones translates to a constant availability of interaction and assistance. This experience boost the sense of comradeship and may bring about healthy competition and lively discussions to solve problems. From my own experience, I believe this is an absolutely amazing opportunity for students to learn from each other as they are given opportunity to learn by teaching.
Furthermore, interaction with people of different ethnicity and of different geographical backgrounds boosts our own personal circle of network which is highly beneficial when we are entering the professional world. This is in contrast with what we have in conventional learning. In conventional learning, there are few instances where students are often limited to a particular circle of friends for several years and this may lead to an instinctive behaviour that favours a particular set of individuals of characters. This behaviour can lead user to have a narrow mind set and bias.
Another feature of online course that is noteworthy is instant feedback. Instant feedback means that the students’ results will be shown immediately along with helpful tips. This is one superior feature which conventional learning lacks. In conventional learning, results usually come a few weeks later and may impede the interest of students in improving their errors on the particular paper. Furthermore, the delay in grading can also bring negative impact to learning response because students may get wrong understanding of concepts while the process of grading the assignments are underway. Online learning usually allows multiple trial and encourage retrial of questions to engage students in active learning process.
However, I think it is fair to mention the strength of conventional classroom education. Conventional learning is superior in teaching methodical and theoretical knowledge, especially when the targeted students are at primary and junior high school. This is due to the fact that teachers prioritize on nurturing a particular group of students within the boundary of classroom where the students are getting undivided attention and focus by the educators. However, conventional learning can prove to be rigid as it tends to focus on subject repetition and the quality of education is really dependent on the passion and clarity the educators in conveying their knowledge. In this situation, we will often find that students are passive receivers and they may feel that learning is a forceful experience, especially in subjects which they do not excel in.
Based on all the points above-mentioned, I believe that MOOC will be the future of learning. With the presence of MOOC, students are more exposed to education on global context. More and more dependable online learning portals such as Coursera and MIT Online Portal are popping up . The trend of globalization more prevalent than ever and our level of technology keeps on improving at an exponential rate, students are expected to brush up on subjects or to hand in their assignments.
Image is taken to the courtesy of Eureka! Online Learning Center