Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) have recently received a great deal of attention from the media, entrepreneurial vendors, education professionals and technologically literate sections of the public. The promise of MOOCs is that they will provide free to access, cutting edge courses that could drive down the cost of university-level education and potentially disrupt the existing models of higher education.
This has encouraged universities to put their courses online by setting up open learning platforms, such as edX. New commercial start-ups such as Coursera and Udacity have also been launched in collaboration with prestigious universities, offering online courses for free or charging a small fee for certification. The rapid expansion of MOOCs has sparked commercial interest from venture capitalists and major corporations who want to enter the higher education market using a MOOC approach. Most significantly, it has opened up strategic discussions about the disruptive potential of MOOCs in higher education and forced established providers to re-visit online learning and open education as strategic choices for the future.
Given the context just described, higher education institutions will need to make informed decisions about how to serve their specific mission and how to respond to the different needs of learners in a rapidly changing educational market. The speed of development opens up the risk that decisions will be made in a fragmentary way by different unconnected groups without a deep understanding or clear analysis of MOOCs and other potential education delivery models. Institutions will need to develop a cohesive strategy to respond to the opportunities and threats posed by MOOCs and other forms of openness in higher education.
Education that is provided by traditional universities may not meet requirements on the labour market and may not equip students with appropriate skills. Consequently, the MOOCs provide an opportunity for learners to choose online courses whichever and whenever they want to complete. Additionally, Siemens (2005) asserts that it has become vital when learners distinguish information which is important or unimportant to them because they do not spend time on information which is not necessary. As a 31 result, learners become independent when they manage their own learning by choosing a particular online course among numerous opportunities.
They also make social connections with people. Kop (2011) suggests that course participants become responsible for the activities such as providing information, managing time, and organizing learning goals with the help of the MOOCs because these activities were under traditional universities’ control. It is believed that if the number of participants increases in online courses year by year, this may disrupt some modules that traditional universities offer. Subsequently, the MOOCs may replace some traditional courses or even traditional institutions themselves. However, this proposition has not been proved yet, and students still need some aspects of the traditional universities that cannot be replaced by the MOOCs.