William J. Barry
While pursuing his research interests, which include effective technology use, especially among students in transition, William J. Barry teaches developmental reading at St. Edward’s University. He also trains adult educators in partnership with the Texas Center for the Advancement of Literacy and Learning (TCALL), and teaches first-year seminar at Texas State University, where he is a PhD candidate in developmental education.
Questions of access and affordability remain at the heart of the developmental education discussion (Braun, 2016; Floyd, Felsher, & Ramdin, 2016), and as the results of Moore’s Law continue to bring the world increasingly powerful technology, stakeholders turn to ones and zeroes for answers. Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) represent one such proposal enjoying ample coverage in the literature (e.g., Bastedo, 2016; McClure, 2016). Advocates say MOOCs increase the accessibility of high-quality education while decreasing the costs (Carey, 2012; Teo, 2015), and critics point to the low academic rigor of MOOCs, while suggesting they profit at the expense of faculty and students (Axmann & Atkins, 2016; Marshall, 2014).
Despite this crucial debate, MOOC critiques rarely consider college students’ perceptions and attitudes. While administrators, faculty, and media argue apace, it remains unclear how students view MOOCs. As an educator in the developmental space, I consider students the primary stakeholders. As such, I expect MOOC policy to benefit students first. I expect researchers and faculty interested in MOOCs to focus on how students perceive these issues. After all, their education faces significant transformation in the face of widespread MOOC implementation.
Such expectations drew my attention to a recent study (Cole & Timmerman, 2015), which examined students’ MOOC perceptions. Using thematic analysis, Cole and Timmerman (2015) suggested students believe MOOCs hold the potential to augment lifelong learning, even though they serve as inferior alternatives to traditional coursework. Students made their determinations based on several interesting criteria (see Figure 1), which suggest a deeper appreciation for what works in education. These kinds of nuanced student responses also suggest the value of asking deeper questions regarding MOOC utility, rather than yielding to seductive pro/con binaries. Answers to such questions inform decisions with regard to the place of MOOCs in higher education, and those decisions stand to affect each one of us in yet unseen ways.
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Axmann, M., & Atkins, R. (2016). Online community-based practices for massive open online courses (MOOCs) at Open Universities Australia: A case Study. User-Centered Design Strategies for Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), 83.
Bastedo, M. N. (2016). American higher education in the twenty-first century: Social, political, and economic challenges. Baltimore, MD: JHU Press.
Braun, H. (2016). The dynamics of opportunity in America: A working framework. In The Dynamics of Opportunity in America (pp. 137-164). New York: Springer International Publishing.
Carey, K. (2012, September 7). Into the future with MOOCs. Chronicle of Higher Education, 59(2), 29.
Cole, A. W., & Timmerman, C. E. (2015). What do current college students think about MOOCs? MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 11, 188-201.
Floyd, D. L., Felsher, R. A., & Ramdin, G. (2016). A retrospective of four decades of community college research. Community College Journal of Research and Practice, 40(1), 5-22.
Marshall, S. (2014). Exploring the ethical implications of MOOCs. Distance Education, 35, 250-262. doi:10.1080/01587919.2014.917706
McClure, M. W. (2016). Investing in MOOCs: “Frenemy” risk and information quality. In Globalisation and Higher Education Reforms (pp. 77-94). New York: Springer International Publishing.
Teo, T. H. (2015). Just-in-time teaching visual instruction for cohort base interactive learning for engineering course. GSTF Journal on Education (JEd), 3(1).