Are MOOCs Really a Game Changer for Higher Education?


IMD business school president, Dominique Turpin believes that MOOCs are a waste of time. During a forum in Singapore, he argued that high dropout rates and low levels of engagement meant they could only enjoy “limited results”.

The term MOOC stands for ‘massive open online course.’ An unlimited amount of people can enroll onto a MOOC at any one time as all lectures and teaching material is accessed via the web.

The director of IMD business school’s Corporate Learning Network, Paul Hunter, echoes Turpin’s views and stated that an executive would not integrate well on the course due to the lack of personal feedback available to them.

“If education providers want to get serious about online learning, they need to get serious about feedback. Whether that feedback comes in writing, through a Skype call or online video chat is immaterial. What counts is that the feedback is personalized, that it comes from someone who genuinely cares about the participant successfully completing her learning objectives, and that the coach is recognized as being able to provide insightful and provocative input,” he says adding: “In many online programs, for reasons of cost or poor design, the feedback participants receive is at best worthless and at worst erroneous.”

IMD is currently ranked #1 in the world for open enrollment executive education programs by the Financial Times – a position it has retained for the past four years, and is a heavyweight in online education platforms and business education as a whole. This harsh appraisal by IMD will likely send out warning signals to other schools looking to incorporate MOOCs into their programs simply out of fear of being left behind in a new educational sphere.

“In most cases MOOCs will not provide the meaningful learning executives are looking for, and indeed have often already gained in face-to-face programs,” says Turpin.

MOOCs can’t do everything at once

It would seem that the MOOC phenomenon has gained momentum at business schools because of the quick and economical way that a course can be executed – but, as Hunter says, the drawback of this is the diminished quality of the course itself. This a sentiment echoed by Copenhagen Business School’s vice dean, Christian Tangkjær.

Jeff Selingo, a writer and speaker who specializes in the future of higher education, says that MOOCs will not solve all the issues facing higher education today – even though they are a tempting attraction to schools.

“MOOCs are not a panacea, but that does not blunt their promise. The battle for the future of higher education has landed — at least for the time being — on a concept few in academe had even heard of a year ago: the massive open online course, or MOOC,” says Selingo in an interview with My Digital FC.

“I can imagine how the format might reduce costs, improve learning, increase access, and maybe, produce revenue for a few universities. The problem is that MOOCs probably can’t do all four things at any one institution – and that’s the reason they are not the solution to the myriad of problems facing higher education.”

But not everyone believes MOOCs have nothing to offer

However, not everybody is as skeptical about the potential of MOOCs. As previously pointed out, IMD president Dominique Turpin stated that mass online enrollment courses did not provide the one-to-one interaction that an executive would need to succeed on a program – however, John Byrne, the former editor of Businessweek, argues that this is beneficial to an executive living a fast paced life style.

“In an atmosphere where speed trumps all else, many professionals can’t spend months filling gaps or gaining surface knowledge. And that’s the beauty of MOOCs. They run on your schedule at your pace, and starting one in August when things are slow at work and you might be on vacation could be an ideal way to ease yourself into new learning,” says John on his personal LinkedIn account.

“At the same time, they’re taught by many of the same educators who are training the graduate school elite. In August–a month when many take time for a vacation– you’ll find everything from corporate investment strategy basics to futurist tomes on knowledge management and big data.”

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