Wednesday, April 25, 2012 | Latest audio lessons → VOA Learning English
Another Look at Massive Online Open Courses
Last time, we talked about Massive Open Online Courses, also called MOOCs. Tens of thousands or even more people can take these classes all at once. You can be anywhere in the world to take a MOOC. All you need is a computer and a network connection. MOOCs add to a tradition of what is known as distance learning. For years, many colleges have offered classes that are taught partly or mostly online. MOOCs are available in subjects like computer science, engineering or mechanics. Can MOOCs in subjects like arts or the humanities be as effective?
Scott Anderson teaches philosophy at the University of British Columbia in Canada. He sees both good and bad sides to online courses. Mr. Anderson believes that some parts are fine. For example, when a teacher gives a presentation to the class, there is no special reason why students need to be physically present to hear it. And, he says there is no reason why they need to be physically present to do readings. Mr. Anderson says increased numbers of people taking MOOCs can mean less communication between students and teachers. He says two ways to deal with this are by adding more teachers and graders, and setting up online discussion groups.
Lisa Jadwin teaches English and American literature and writing at St. John Fisher College in New York. She says online education has some weaknesses for her subjects. She says the teaching of literature requires face-to-face interaction. Professor Jadwin says some students could learn well from presentations and reading assignments, blogs and discussion groups. But she believes that hybrid courses work best. She describes hybrids as mixing face-to-face course elements with computer-aided teaching and writing projects. Bill Pogue teaches communications at the University of Houston-Downtown. He says that after leading classes for more than thirty years, he would not attempt to teach a MOOC. However, Mr. Pogue sees good value in online education. He noted a strong sense of community in an online course he once took. He says the students worked together on a project while living on four continents. He says this would be hard to repeat in a traditional classroom or face-to-face setting.
For VOA Special English, I'm Carolyn Presutti. Get more education news and learn English at voaspecialenglish.com. (Adapted from a radio program broadcast 29Mar2012)