The growing influence of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) is going to change the face of education. The age of classrooms and lecture halls are numbered, and the days of web based learning are swiftly approaching. Classes with a definitive answer based curriculum validate this upcoming change. In this paper the subject of focus will be mathematics. The class format of MOOCs suite math based curriculums best as they are easier to grade, organize, and deliver than course that depend on writing, or original responses. In order to reach a large population of students, the logistics and organization of the class have to align with the course content. As the demand for a technology friendly education platform rises, the appearance of MOOCs in the education system will increase. The success of implementing this kind of change, relies on the professors that greet innovative change with confidence.
There have been many recent examples of MOOCs using different approaches and methods of analyzing the success they have had with the students participating in them. One example of a recent MOOC was a calculus course. The calculus MOOC offered new and profound insights with varying degrees of success. Robert Ghrist, a professor at Andrea Mitchell University, taught a MOOC that incorporated creative methods of teaching calculus. Using his own hand drawn images and animated video lectures, Ghrist was able to visually engage his students in a unique way. “Many find it fun, an adjective not normally applied to calculus texts.” (Robert Ghrist, 1277). With the improvement of technology, teachers are able to educate and encourage a larger number of people. “The rise of low-cost platforms for putting our courses online is a liberation from the publishing bureaucracy that has made the calculus education of today look almost identical to that of the 1980’s and earlier (in every respect save price) (Robert Ghrist, 1277).” He illustrates the underlying theme; the worry of many educators, what will happen to the teachers, professionals, and experts if MOOCs become the standard? His response was that: so long as there are people who make it their purpose to show the worth of a subject, and to keep it alive, it will. In time someone will come along and make changes that will alter the way people think resulting in a great loss for many people.
Technology also serves a different purpose, using technology to obtain analytical data from MOOCs in order to research the success of MOOC implementation. By using a data set of 1,493 individuals, and a cluster analysis comprising of demographic data in the registration process, and compared to age and motivation, the analysts were able to come up with some staggering numbers. Over 81% of all the students took the class for either education/job growth, or general interest (MOOC Research, p2). That means on average 81% of all individuals who take a MOOC, actually wanted to enroll in the MOOC. These results tend to be misleading in comparison to the rates of student completion. The interesting thing is that, students who complete the course in full, show significant improvement within each module and then continue to experience success in mathematical concepts as seen by the results of student pre and post testing. The average for all participants on their pre-test was a 53.54, and the post-test was an outstanding 71.10 which is a 17.56 point improvement. If nothing else, the results indicate that people can learn, and develop an understanding of a subject by using MOOCs, which implies that MOOCs are a viable educational avenue. (MOOC Research, p3). Suffice to say that MOOCs are encouraging more students to at least attempt higher level education, and that is significant in itself!
MOOCs have hit the ground running and despite their relative inexperience on the higher education stage, many have made a recognizable impact in the education world. Whether it be a comic book interpretation of calculus theory, or entry level mathematics divided into free reign modules, MOOCs are achieving reassuring success rates. Education has the ability and resources to become accessible and cost effective without losing any traditional instructional value. MOOCs open the door that online education had already knocked on: self-paced learning that can be completed at the convenience of the student and for the reasons the student chooses. Choosing a class based on degree requirements will become a thought of the past. Thousands of subjects can be accessed out of interest or continuing education for career seeking students. Education is flexible and can be altered to cater to the needs and demands of students. Education is handing the reigns over to the student, and it’s up to the student to take over and make the most of their ride.
Robert Ghrist, Notices of the AMS, MOOCs and the Future of Mathematics, 1277.
Retrieved from http://www.moocresearch.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/C9134_HOAR_MathMOOCResearchReport-NoBud-2.pdf
Robert, Hoar, MOOC research Initiative Final Report, UW System College Readiness Math MOOC Study, 1-4. Retrieved from http://www.ams.org/notices/201310/rnoti-p1277.pdf