How MOOCs enrich modern learning

The MOOC has settled into its current state as an established method of imparting and sharing knowledge, says Canvas Network

By Kenny Nicholls, Head of Higher Education at Canvas

At Canvas, we have a uniquely rounded insight into the market, working with traditional education establishments, entirely online universities, and commercial MOOC developers alike. And while some ask whether MOOCs present a challenge for traditional educators, we see a path of co-opetition, where these technology powered courses enhance a conventional learning experience.

An integrated education landscape

While MOOCs ensure that content and resources are readily accessible online, their role has not been to compete with traditional learning. MOOCs require different pedagogical approaches, the acknowledgement and recognition of non-western canonized educational resources and key historical figures, and must also promote openness in education in order to be truly successful. When we remove the expectation that MOOCs need to be synonymous with traditional education then we will see their usefulness amplified.

We see the future of the MOOC as part of a more flexible, integrated, learning environment – integrated into a student-centred pedagogy. For example, by using MOOCs alongside other course materials, teachers can deliver a multi-faceted and engaging learning experience, where students can consume material whenever and however it suits. By combining virtual learning with physical teaching – allowing both material to be consumed away from campus and the introduction of diverse thoughts and opinions from those participating from around the globe – institutions can free up classroom time for deeper discussions that only in-person teaching can bring.

‘A truly multi-media, integrated, education experience, which harnesses technology but does not forget the importance of human interaction and the teacher’

Experts also suggest that, in future, the MOOC could be used to introduce ‘perpetual degrees’ where those who finish a course could ‘top up’ their qualification using MOOCs from higher education institutes. This again helps institutions to further evolve, as they embrace the idea of lifelong learning – where education doesn’t have a firm start and stop date – and students are encouraged to look at learning as continually evolving practice.

So while MOOCs started life as a way to gain knowledge outside of a formal setting, the potential for them to co-exist as part of a more traditional teaching environment is apparent. And the willingness of institutions to cooperate with outside parties demonstrates the appetite for a truly multi-media, integrated, education experience, which harnesses technology but does not forget the importance of human interaction and the teacher.

What’s next for the MOOC?

While some are eager to write off the tech as a gimmick, the genie is well and truly out of the bottle, and as technology marches on, the possibilities are infinite.

One area that Canvas is exploring is augmented reality and its role in MOOCs and education in general. This kind of tech is well suited to STEM subjects, making the intangible real. From exploring the universe to following the water cycle, there are opportunities for any age group to benefit.

Whether openly developing and sharing course content, expertise or giving the opportunity for thousands of people to tap into new and interesting courses, MOOCs will continue to be a real means of connecting people and sharing knowledge. In a world where we’re transcending physical barriers all the time, it’s important for educators to adapt and take advantage, and institutions can incorporate the power of the MOOC into pedagogy, to benefit teachers and learners alike.

The Canvas Network, hosts a huge range of other open courses from colleges, universities, and organisations worldwide.This September, Zappar will be hosting a massive open online course (MOOC) on the on the Canvas Network, which will showcase how AR technology can bring the classroom to life in a fun and interactive way, and in particular, how it can aid those learning STEM subjects. Anyone interested in this technology should visit the Zappar and Canvas websites – and begin to see how the newest applications can better inspire and enthuse a new generation of would be scientists, engineers and mathematicians.

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