This answer discusses the increased popularity of MOOCs in the UK, and how this has merged traditional and virtual learning models.
Online courses have become increasingly attractive especially amongst working professionals. How much has this changed conventional classroom learning – in light of Oxford University planning to launch its first MOOC course?
Massive open online courses (MOOCs) differ from typical online courses in that participation is open to all and typically free of charge, with peer-to-peer learning – facilitated by bespoke social media – being strongly promoted (Kaplan and Haenlein, 2016). In real time the professional educator’s role is one of mentor and consultant rather than lecturer, although recorded lectures may feature. MOOC education has been seen from a UK perspective as being a US-based unaccredited educational Cinderella (Poyiadgi, 2014); however, Oxford University’s intention to launch a MOOC has prompted renewed interest and reappraisal in the UK (Elmes, 2016).
In the UK, the distance learning model has combined traditional classroom pedagogy with home study, which technology has revolutionised in recent years. Distance learning conducted largely online is especially suitable for working professionals, for whom the classroom element needs to be minimal, intensive and student-focused (University of Leicester, 2016), in contrast to the traditional lengthy planned lecture programmes typically aimed at full-time undergraduates. Universities in the UK have applied the lessons of online distance learning to their traditional courses, paradoxically resulting in full-time undergraduates complaining about reduced face-to-face contact with their lecturers (Paton, 2013). As intensive, student-focused classroom learning is temporally and financially efficient, and favoured by the lucrative working professional postgraduate cohort, it seems that it is here to stay.
This model of classroom learning is eminently transferable to the MOOC, where bespoke social media transforms the heretofore solitary experience of distance learning into a social experience comprising what is essentially a virtual classroom. Kilgore (2001) notes that this represents a postmodern reconciliation of the traditional and virtual learning models, where full-time students and working professionals can learn alongside each other, each individually conceiving the classroom from multiple, meaning-based personal perspectives.
Elmes, J. (2016) “University of Oxford launches its first MOOC” in Times Higher Education, Tuesday 15th November, 2016
Kaplan, A. and Haenlein, M. (2016) “Higher education and the digital revolution: about MOOCs, SPOCs, social media and the cookie monster” in Business Horizons, 59 (4), pp. 441-450
Kilgore, D. (2001) “Critical and postmodern perspectives on adult learning” in New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education, 2001 (89), pp. 53-62
Paton, G. (2013) “University teaching time ‘fails to rise’ despite fees hike” in The Daily Telegraph, Wednesday 15th May, 2013
Poyiadgi, M. (2014) “Accreditation will be central to the success of MOOCs” in the Financial Times, Monday 10th March, 2014
University of Leicester (2016) MBA by Distance Learning [online] available at https://le.ac.uk/courses/the-leicester-mba-dl, retrieved on Saturday 19th November, 2016