For all of my higher-education, online courses, MOOCs (massive open online courses), and other “disruptive technologies” – most simply technologies that have the potential to influence many practices and industries by opening a new avenue of influence – have not only existed, but been prevalent. There was rarely a semester in my undergraduate career where one of my courses didn’t have an online option, and the majority of my more general education classes utilized some aspect of online courses such as online testing.
Given this experience, it is odd for me to think of disruptive technology’s changing place in education, as M.J. Dennis does here from a world-wide perspective. I personally hate online courses – I’ve had to option for in-person instruction and testing and I find it vastly preferable. However, Dennis brings up the capability of an online course to make information available to a wide audience of learners, not as a convenience for students with other options. In her article, I found a new perspective on MOOCs, as an actual educational tool rather than what I’ve always thought of them as, an outreach tool.
I have heard the perspective that a MOOC is a special way to reach people all around the world – but I see this more as a way to increase global connectivity than to reach new students. My international living experience is limited, but where I have lived and taught, a massive online course still couldn’t reach the vast majority of students. True, I taught at a secondary school, not a university, but I still have a hard time seeing online resources as accessible to many students. This is why I think of them as an outreach tool – a way for people who aren’t in college to interact with academics and for academics to tell the public (and folks outside of their subject area) about their field.
Dennis, though, seems to equate online classes and MOOCs in their usefulness for education. As I’ve mentioned, my opinion on online classes is shaky, but it would be extremely interesting if the educational format of an online class through a university could become more widespread, even global, without becoming more of an outreach tool.