Massive Open Online courses (MOOCs) part 2

Today half of China’s population and a fourth of India’s population have access to the Internet. The fact is China has twice the number of the Internet users than the U.S. Almost everywhere you travel in these countries, you could see people talking, texting, reading news or learning something online using their laptop or smartphone.

For thousands of years, knowledge was limited to a few elites, mostly kings, and his officers, or a limited number of scholars. Only in the 18th century, more public schools were established to educate people but most knowledge was limited in printed books and for people who can read and write. Today almost everyone has access to the huge library of knowledge via the Internet. With online tutorial websites and Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), anyone who wants to learn can learn anything that they want. But somehow, only a few would take the advantage of this technology to enrich their knowledge and improve their skills.

In the past, education was limited to a few who can afford it. Even with public schools, there were costs for books and other materials. Today with MOOCs, all you need is a laptop with an Internet connection. Most of the courses do not charge money, all you need is your time and efforts. Most of these courses are based on the same courses taught at top universities like Stanford, Harvard, MIT, Oxford, the same professors. There are no admission requirements, no formal qualification, anyone could enroll regardless where they come from or what kind of education they have. Basically, MOOCs is designed to educate a massive number of people on topics that they are interested in.

The challenge with MOOCs is many classes are online where professors cannot pay attention to students as in a regular university, where they can provide additional support or advice. In MOOCs, the students are learning by themselves on their own efforts. This is the main reason that only less than 10% of students who took a class at MOOC are able to complete it. Most quit after a few weeks and never finish an assignment.

According to a recent study, there were more students from China and India enrolled in MOOCs but most of them also dropped out in contrast to students from African countries who have a fewer enrolling but a higher number of completion. Several Chinese students explained that taking a MOOC course may help them to learn a skill but will not give them a degree or help them to get a job so they do not see the need to complete it.

If you want to learn new skills or something that you are interested in, MOOCs are the best thing to consider. Even if you have a degree and a job, MOOCs are the best way to keep you updated on your skills. In this fast-changing world, you must continue to learn if you want to maintain a stable career. Of course, for those who are curious about MOOCs and want to see what the top universities are teaching by enrolling then dropping, you are wasting your time.


  • Blogs of Prof. John Vu, Carnegie Mellon University