Online and free: the revolution arrives at the university

Online and free: the revolution arrives at the university

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) are free online courses offered by leading universities around the world. They have attracted such interest lately that there are those who compare the impact of their appearance to the invention of the printing press. Is there room for this new educational concept in such a narrow market?

Learning how to build a search engine on the internet by the teachings of prominent scientists from Stanford University, learning the fundamentals of electronic circuits through the explanations of experts from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) or going into Biostatistics Analysis assisted by a professor at Johns Hopkins University are some of the possibilities offered. And if you are not a science kind of guy, do not worry, there are MOOCs about Classical Music, English, Egyptology, Mythology or Entrepreneurship to name a few.

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The difference from other free online educational materials is that they are fixed-duration formal courses imparted by a teacher and backed by a university. Another attraction is that they have no enrollment limit, so they can be followed by thousands of interested people from any point of the planet. Anyone can access higher education taught by some of the most prestigious universities in the world just by having a sound internet connection. In fact, it is actually estimated that there are currently more than two million and a half students following a MOOC.

As for methodology, most of them consist of an interactive video through which the teachers explain the content and introduce questions and interactive exercises to check that the student has understood. Some of these videos combine lectures based on Powerpoint presentations with interviews with various experts in the field, images related to the agenda, stories and reference materials on PDF documents and links to websites with additional resources.

The rise of MOOC makes some people wonder whether this type of education will ever replace traditional teaching. Who will pay tuition at the local college if you can access for free, from your home computer, to courses by prestigious universities and professors? The reality is that, at least today, these courses are mainly aimed at improving the training who follows them, not to provide full professional qualifications. Even those who are convinced that these courses will revolutionize university education ensure that the MOOC are a complement to traditional teaching, but will not replace it.