The prominent and effective uses of MOOCs (Massively Open Online Courses) has been both encouraging and illustrative of the wide acceptance, nationally and internationally, of integrated technology within the areas of higher education. It also presents a very promising perspective of how conventional classrooms and educational systems have welcomed and utilized these tools in creative ways that work to continually enhance the distribution, reception, and overall experiences of teaching and learning.
One instance of such use was explained in an article written last week by Thomas L. Friedman for The New York Times. Friedman speaks about his experiences learning about those who have used MOOCs in their own courses, including his friend Michael Sandel, and the impact that has come from being exposed to such a democratized approach to higher education.
Michael Sandel, a political philosopher and professor at Harvard University, has had his famous 1000-student Justice course recorded and distributed online using the MOOC framework. These lectures, having also been translated for Chinese and South Korean audiences, have garnered international appeal and popularity, which otherwise would have been very difficult to accomplish were it not for MOOCs.
And this appeal has introduced an interesting change in the educational landscape. The traditional classroom environment, along with its instructors, are being threatened by the growing successes and wide appeal of MOOCs. Friedman explains how it is essential that we as educators and students move away from “the current system of information and delivery”, where the professor speaks, students take notes, and a test is given at the end, to a system where students are empowered to master basic materials online and utilize the classroom as a place to exercise and develop the knowledge through discussions, experiments, in-class activities, etc.
This proposed course of action has put pressure on the conventional educational structure, where in order to thrive and be sustainable within this academic setting, drastic changes to implement technology within coursework, as well as restructuring curricula to better facilitate the learning experience for students, are necessary to remain relevant. This is a step in a direction where education works to enhance unique experiences by using technology to improve learning outcomes, resulting in a much more effective and inexpensive method of instruction and understanding.
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