MOOC’s and the future of education

I recently read a great article in the Sunday Review section of the Times about the pros and cons of MOOCs, massive online open courses.  I feel the discussion about the value of this way of learning and what it means to education in general will be heating up in a big way in the future.  The pros and cons are already out there. Peter Norvig’s enthusiasm in his TEDX talk is palpable and infectious.  He talks about how the art of teaching hasn’t really changed ever.  Now, thanks to the power of the web, courses in artificial intelligence and other esoteric topics are open to a global audience with an Internet connection.  I think this is just amazing and benefits humanity.

Having recently taken both online and classroom college level classes in order to attain a teaching certification, I have to offer up a real big caveat.  I have fonder memories and a higher rate of retention for the courses that I took with real people than the ones I took online. It was the classroom setting, as old fashioned as it was, that completely reinvigorated my passion for the learning about the humanities.  The online courses seemed so remote, the obligatory chatroom interactions forced and distant.  I also think that the economic advantages of MOOC’s will be assuredly exploited by universities, getting away with it under the guise of being bleeding edge, cutting manpower and embracing the efficiencies of the digital age.  There is no replacement to the human element when it comes to learning. With two teenage sons, I am watching very closely where this is going.

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