The era of flexible education is here. Creative learning solutions aren’t just a faraway ideal, they are becoming increasingly necessary. The ‘traditional’ manners of teaching have been forced to change - nothing made this clearer than the COVID-19 pandemic. With many switching to online learning, MOOCs; Massive Open Online Courses have grown in popularity over the past decade - since 2012, when MOOCs burst onto the scene, they have acquired 220 million learners (excluding China), and over 3100 courses.
However, flexible learning approaches like MOOCs, bring their own set of challenges. Switching to this style means educators’ tools should be easy to use and able to accommodate modern needs. In this article, we’ll dig deeper into MOOC learning, its benefits, and what’s needed to make it succeed, specifically for coding education.
Advantages and Disadvantages of MOOCs
MOOCs have promised many benefits. Firstly, their open access to all those with internet helps promote more equal education. This also allows learners to connect on the global level. Secondly, learners can experiment with their interests before committing to, for example, a university degree. Thirdly, many MOOCs have social networking sites, so those enrolled can learn from each other and collaborate. Also, MOOCs are a great way to experiment with new pedagogical methods and collect data on what works and what does not. Finally, many MOOCs are asynchronous, meaning students can choose the pace of their learning. This is also extremely beneficial for those learning skills like coding at a later age. Computer science is starting much earlier in many education systems, but this hasn’t always been the case. Older generations have been left out of this trend. You can learn to code at any age, and the lack of earlier CS education should not dissuade or inhibit you from learning! MOOCs help make this possible, as you have the opportunity to learn, say, Python, alongside your current job and at your own pace.
On top of the benefits for students, flexible learning hugely benefits teachers. For coding, a customizable grading and learning system can ease the burden of manual grading, saving time and resources. This is nothing short of necessary. Schools are facing more teacher vacancies than ever, often as a result of stress, which skyrocketed during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to a small-scale study, flexibility was the most highly ranked factor that would keep teachers in the classroom, even above higher pay.
There are, of course, some disadvantages. MOOCs face extremely high dropout rates - a drawback of their open and free nature. Student engagement can differ vastly depending on both the course and the student, yet keeping learners engaged and consistently motivated for an online course is a legitimate concern (especially for coding!). Yet, this is not an inherent feature of MOOCs - paired with high-quality instructional design and support tools, this can be remedied! Another concern is academic integrity. MOOCs have to assess learners online, making it easy for learners to plagiarize answers and confer with peers. In fact, new methods of cheating have been developed specifically for MOOCs such as CAMEO; Copying Answers using Multiple Existences Online. Maintaining academic integrity will boost the validity of MOOCs and be crucial in their success.