Are MOOCs a viable replacement for traditional forms of education?

What is a MOOC? It is short for ‘massive open online course’, which is a free online teaching tool used to educate large numbers of students (The Chronicle 2013). Are people actually learning from these online courses, which do not end in any form of college credit (Goldberg 2001)? According to the largest ever survey of professors who have taught MOOCs, they have been successful and nearly half of the professors felt their online courses were as rigorous academically as the versions they taught in the classroom (Kolowich 2013).

Is this fair, that those physically in the classroom pay exorbitant amounts of money to undertake a range of courses, and others are taking them for free? The difference is that those undertaking the MOOC, will not have it credited to a degree or other type of educational level.

At MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) they have had course materials online for over ten years now (Goldberg 2001), according to MIT OnlineCourseWare website (2013) they have a number of different purposes for why people use the site. The most popular reason for educators to use the site is for ‘improving personal knowledge’. For students, it is to ‘enhance personal knowledge’ and self-learners to ‘explore areas outside their professional field’. Overall, these MOOCs on the MIT site are not solely undertaken to gain a career in any particular field but to supplement learning from elsewhere.

As for MOOCs replacing traditional forms of education, I don’t see it happening anytime soon. People want to learn at a tertiary level online, but as Goldberg (2001) states these courses are ingredients of learning, to be combined with teacher-student interaction somewhere else.

MOOCs are invaluable to personal learning but at this current time, for further career in a given field, is it more viable to be done in conjunction with a traditional learning environment?

This infographic shows the breakdown of some interesting statistics from Coursera which hosts a range of MOOCs.


Goldberg, C 2001, ‘Auditing Classes at M.I.T., on the web and Free’, The New York Times, 04 April, <>

Kolowich, S 2013, The Professors Who Make the MOOCs, The Chronicle of Higher Education, viewed 5 May 2013, <>

Site Statistics 2013, MIT OpenCourseWare, viewed 5 May 2013, <>

What You Need to Know About MOOCs 2013, The Chronicle of Higher Education, viewed 5 May 2013, <

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