MOOC Costs-Benefits: The Student-Consumer

The student (or more accurately for most) or consumer is supposed to be the big beneficiary of the MOOC environment.  The 2012-13 hype was of unlimited access to every course, all taught by the best in each discipline, leading to effortless learning by any one globally at their own time and pace.  As with almost everything, the reality is of course much more complex.  So part 2 of the Benefit-cost list:


Benefits: Consumer-driven model, customer driven selection, consumption

  • Comparison shopping-course materials available to all, 24/7, no risk of unknown in taking class
  • No distance issues, no limitation of ‘only nearby campus’
  • Ultimate ‘commuter student’, little wasted time

Costs: Student must be self-motivated, have excellent time-task discipline

  • Steep learning curve with a lack of support services (writing assistance)
  • Need to have language/grammar skills in place prior to class—all courses are writing intensive (via blog/text dialogs/email posting)
  • Able to work effectively w/o group support, w/o strong social interaction

From the standpoint of an educator at a very unique institution, one of only 3-4 institutions listed as Hawaiian-Pacific Islander focused, I see a major failing in the current MOOC model.  The large proportion of the student-consumers that Hewlett Foundation and other groups built the original MOOC model on the desire to provide access to quality higher education to the global community, specifically those who would otherwise not have access to such education.  From our standpoint in the Pacific, a major problem is that this same population does not have the language/grammar skills to maximize their investment–while they can consume some of the materials, though comprehension may be an issue, the main problem comes with the desire for proof of completion (certification-credits).  Their ability to communicate effectively (and more importantly their perception that they can do so) is compromised.  Realistically in the modern world the validation of knowledge is as important as the consumption-understanding gained.  The use of exclusively elitist institutions globally in the initial MOOC development makes this gap even more striking, and is the major factor driving our initiative to move institutions with a richer understanding of these challenged potential scholars into their MOOC world.

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