With the growing number of connected devices, high enrollment rates, and the increasing demand for low-cost, high-quality education, MOOC providers are poised to grow exponentially over the next several years.
As a reminder, MOOCs stands for Massive Open Online Courses and are a form of distance learning. Although online education has been around for many years, MOOCs are seen as disruptive technology for education because of their massive scale and modern data-driven educational approach. They bundle video lectures, quizzes, assignments, and tests together with a community forum for a social experience. Grading is achieved by a combination of automated feedback and peer review. Certificates of completion are generally available for free, with an extra cost for identity-verified certificates which aim to provide proof of student performance.
While the technology is still improving, the learning experience is both enjoyable and satisfying.
From my personal perspective, there are four areas that stand out for different MOOC providers:
- Forum interaction is a huge bonus for anyone who likes to interact with others in a more social context. Not only does this make learning more fun, but the buzz of energy from tens of thousands of student participants helps motivate engagement and course completion. I believe the clear leader for forums is Coursera.
- MOOCs present information in different ways. Generally, most if not all MOOCs involve teaching through video. But some MOOCs make better use of the platform technologies, such as HTML5, to enhance learning and understanding. Some MOOCs offer speed-variable video, which is a real boon for watching videos several times over to help concepts sink in. Other MOOCs use integrated click-and-drag features for quizzes—for which edX is a clear standout. An English Grammar class, for example, used a click-and-drag "quizlet" to test understanding of various parts of grammar usage.
- Another way MOOC providers differentiate themselves is how they structure courses. We're hard-wired to enjoy stories, and FutureLearn takes advantage of this fact with an intuitive, natural, sequential lesson flow. The Introduction to Journalism course was exceptional in this regard. A story is woven into the six-week course that keeps students hooked and looking forward to the next lesson to discover more.
- Perhaps the most powerful student engagement tool of all is Gamification. This involves rewarding students as they reach various learning objectives. It appeals to our competitive, goal-driven nature. Australia's OpenLearning offers a variety of gamification badges for successful learning outcomes and appreciation for community support within forums. Badges give students a sense of accomplishment and peer recognition for their contributions.
Here is a list of 10 of the leading MOOC providers that feature courses offered by accredited and elite Universities from around the globe.