MOOC (Massive Open Online Courses) - Redefining Learning

Published by MBA Skool Team, Published on December 16, 2013

Have you ever dreamed of studying at Stanford or at Washington or at Michigan but have not been able to do it because of high fees, low GRE scores or just simply because of you have been busy with other things in life. Then now is the chance to think once again about these dreams albeit those problems – financial or time-wise. All you need is going to be a mind that is willing to work and learn hard and a computer with an internet connection. The MOOC revolution is changing the world of learning and knowledge and brings to every person around the globe access to short term certificate courses organized by prestigious universities across the world.

What is MOOC?

MOOC stands for Massive Open Online courses. There are currently quite a few websites that offer this form of learning. These websites have different universities registered on their website and they offer courses ranging from 4 – 16 weeks on topics covering arts and science, engineering, philosophy and management and many others. A few of the organizations offering such opportunities of learning include:

  • Coursera
  • Novoed
  • Udacity
  • Edx
  • iVersity

Image Courtesy: Stuart Miles,

All that a user/student needs to do is register up on one of these MOOC websites and sign up for the courses that interest you. The universities that conduct the courses upload video lectures for every week’s classes. There is also a discussion forum that helps in interaction between the students and also acts as a platform for discussion with the faculty, since one-to-one interactions with the faculty would be cumbersome considering that more than 10,000 students register for most of the courses. Assessment is generally by way of weekly quizzes, mini-projects, peer evaluations etc.

Based on statistics from, Coursera, a leading website providing MOOC courses, the following are the countries from where maximum participation of learners is seen:


United States of America



United Kingdom







It clearly shows the interest of the students from developing world like India and Brazil to learn from the prestigious institutes of the west. Considering that Indian students form a major chunk of foreign students attending full-time courses at these universities every year, this is hardly surprising.

Short courses ranging from 4 – 6 weeks are what attracts the maximum participation on these MOOC websites.

Source: Coursera Facebook Page

The Advantages of MOOC

For most students and executives who have wanted to be have a flair of the kind of teaching and learning done at the top universities across the world without having to shell large sums of money or staying away from home for long periods of time, MOOC learning provides an excellent opportunity to get a taste of learning at these great portals of education. The biggest benefits that MOOC can bring to your table are:

Accessibility – It makes accessible to people across the world, of all age groups and all races, a peek to the courses and type of classes at these institutions with just an internet cable and a computer. This makes education and learning accessible to people across the world, in countries affected by war and natural calamities, to people who have never probably seen a big university in life. Just like internet made communication with people across the world easy and quick, MOOC courses offered through the same medium of communication has made learning more accessible than ever before.

Affordability – While one would need to shell out hundreds of dollars to take up a live on-the campus course at Harvard or Oxford, most MOOC courses are free of cost.

Quality - Most universities in India and the second world cry for quality faculty and course curriculum. Most of our government schools and colleges do not have sufficient teachers. MOOC helps to bring quality education, taught by professors from some of the best universities across the world, to the hands of these curious minds across the globe.

A good substitute for executive course: MOOC learning is especially good for young professionals who would love to further their professional ambitions by taking up few short term courses of interest. It would also be of immense value to students who would like to learn one step further about other areas of interest than their academic course. It would also be of much value to anybody who is just interested in pursuing short term courses that interest them and keep their neurons working!

The Drawbacks of MOOC

Lack of Interaction - A teacher is a motivator, mentor and inspiring figure who corrects students and provides them a direction in life. Hence interaction with the teaching staff is a vital part of education.  Being a virtual classroom, MOOC courses cannot provide the same depth and warmth for interaction between students and faculty and amongst the students too. Interactions are limited to the discussion on the forum and for the duration of the course alone. Majority of the students who sign up for the course are generally silent on the forums.

The Value of certificate - Though most of the free courses on these websites provide certificate of completion signed by the instructor, they are not considered much valid. This may therefore reduce the interest among students to pursue courses through MOOC.

According to a new revenue model MOOC websites have built, a few courses are offered at a price and these courses will offer a special certificate that would be considered more valid by recruiters.

There have also been protests against MOOC style of learning by professors from many universities who feel that this kind of learning undermines the real value of education and fear that it may see the death of real-school learning.

Completion rates

Though a lot of students join these online courses, the completion rates are very low, 10% or lower in most cases. This is because students often lose focus and get caught up with other activities in life that they drop out from these courses. Also a majority of the students who sign up for courses are generally not serious about finishing it on time and do not complete the required assignments and homework within the deadline. Being free of cost and without any liabilities, students often do not think twice about dropping out from the courses signed up for.

Low completion rates are a challenge to the MOOC form of learning. MOOC courses with peer groups probably tend to do better because of the peer pressure from the group members to submit the homework and evaluations.

The Hype around MOOC

The affordability, the low-cost features and the prestige of the universities involved have attracted students world-over and create hype around it. Though a recent phenomenon, MOOC has caught the fancy of all those who seek knowledge around the world and made it popular today.

In a Hype Cycle that traces the life of technology and process development, MOOC learning was positioned at the peak of the curve; a time when students jump into it more because of the fancy surrounding it than the real value of it.


However it estimates that by the start of the next decade MOOC learning will be quite popular for the real benefits it can offer to knowledge-thirsty minds across the globe.


A MOOC is somewhere between a real university and the self-search for knowledge. A MOOC probably cannot replace real education, but it provides a framework to learn on your own. It is a technology enabled learning platform that has the power to light the lamp of knowledge in every person’s life across the globe. It is also a platform to meet students across the world, to learn from different professors in various universities and learn about new things - from programming in Python, to nanotechnology to genomics.

This article has been authored by Gitanjali from Cognizant

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