MOOC(*)s Or School Dropouts!

(*) MOOC: Massive Online Open Courses

There has been many papers stating about the utility of MOOCs, their relevancy into the various fields of Education. Some agree others are against. Each bringing pertinent arguments, causes and reasons.

Opponents of MOOCs base their thinking on the number of dropouts, while thousands of learners register to attend to a MOOC, some few hundreds remain till the end of the course. This reason, to my opinion, is self explanatory, why MOOCs aren’t yet ready to face the new era of Education realities and of course learners’ expectations.

There are two opposite schools of thinking, the experts who expect from MOOCs to reflect the same way Education has been developed and offered since the early times learning ever existed: teachers providing to students knowledge and skills (the descending approach or the top to bottom way of educating people) and on the other hand, the learners expectations to fulfill and complete the gaps they need from the knowledge they gain from the social knowledge and learning sources.

00 Droputs
Image credits: The Cagle Post by John Trever.

At present times, it is difficult to adapt to MOOCs, as the intent is different from the delivery and implementation aspects, moreover we need to keep in mind that learners gained their “emancipation” from the linear descending learning format, they attend classes (virtual or conventional) with well pointed expectations and specific needs. Today’s learners have free access to information, to knowledge, eventually to skill, their needs are more into the “How do I use it at my daily work?”

As long as MOOCs will be developed following such traditional pedagogical framework, there will still be a gap between the gains and the return on expectations for both learning sources and recipients. There will still be dropouts by thousands.

MOOCs developer still consider a successful learning path through lessons where a teacher gives a lecture, readings, marks, averages and pass grades. Quizzes and assignments follow the same approach (the true / false, or check box questionnaires), learners feel in competition with an established system and not with their own abilities to grasp and usefully use the content of the learned lessons.

Again, to my own opinion and from various observations during the many MOOCs I attended, it is critical to understand that learning is shifting to the concept of acquiring knowledge in a soft-skill manner, the how do I use it or what does it mean in real life or how do I apply this at work?

Learners tend to share with their peers easier than on a teacher / student level. They need to feel on trusted grounds, and expect the learning is related to their field of work, industry, program (students plans to achieve a degree) etc.

This does not reject traditional learning, let us be realistic, no MOOC could ever teach student to become doctors, or engineers, etc. A least for now!

Educational experts and MOOCs developers still think of marks, grades and tangible results directly centered to the material and not in the real life situations as the main goal of a learning process. Falling into the trap of result centered approach will get results of the same type thus people will challenge the course itself and go out to the public offering collecting information and knowledge even if it is not confirmed in accuracy and rightfulness. It is a matter of trust between both parties, without it the unbalancing will continue to graduate dropouts not only from MOOCs but from the existing educational model in place.

From various observations and from reading papers, studies and experts’ insights, I personally think that we are not addressing the real problem yet. People, are the “true / false” denominator for the success or the failure of the actual and inevitably the future.

Today’s education needs to break free from the controlling grip of knowledge and skills owners. As long as it is seen as a source for profit, only a minority will have access to knowledge, skills and potential new jobs of these new times. It is not simply a matter of social justice, or sharing knowledge, it is a matter of human attitude. Do we consider people deserving the same of what we know?

Such questions are simple, unlike what experts may think or state, the answer is simple as well.


Michel – September 17, 2014