MOOCS what are they and how do they compare to other IT online training options?

by HSG on Dec 09, 2013 in Articles from Software Fans

 Unlike traditional online courses that charge a fee, limit enrollment and provide credit or certification, Moocs (massive open online courses) are usually free or low cost and can host hundreds of  thousands global participants.  Although MOOC have been around for years in the form of collective techie learning gatherings, participation in 2012 has ballooned at a rapid pace likened to FaceBook in its heyday.  According to The Year of the MOOCarticle in the New YorkTimes, edX, a nonprofit start-up backed by Harvard and MIT, had 370,000 registrants in the fall of its first official courses. This paled in comparison to the amount of students that Courseraattained in its first year of online learning opportunities, 1.7 million!

Will MOOCs Replace education as we know it?

Like any new trend, massive participation in online classes has its challenges. Lynda Weinman has ample experience when pointing out that they are by no means a replacement for formal education.  As a former digital animator, special effects designer and classroom college teacher, Linda paved the path for an earlier version of MOOC education in the mid 90’s when she founded Lynda.comas an aide to her own students. Over four million students and 2,200 courses later she’s confident when clarifying that many of the collegespartnered with Lynda.com use the tutorials as added features to their existing courses.  When asked in an interview with ReadWriteBuilders, if high technical companies look at online programs in terms of advancement as a supplement to traditional education or as a way for people to further their careers, Lynda feels that “it’sjust one example of something that you can do to enhance your attractiveness to potential employers. But [it’s also important to have] a portfolio and body of work, references that actually work out, showing that you had success in the past.”

MOOC Benefits:

·         You work at your own pace and time. It allows one to review more difficult concepts

·         Depending on the provider, it’s possible to join a study group, online or connect locally for classes. Studies show that more people complete programs if they are part of a cram session.

·         Compared to traditional education, new courseware becomes available sooner, especially in technologies that require updates such as Adobe Systems.

·         The software, in certain cases is programmed to look for mistakes in exercises and guides students with corrections.

 

MOOC Challenges:

·         Instructors (if there are any) can’t possibly respond to individual students due to the massive volumes

·         Grading or progress assessment is often left to a group of “other” students from different walks of life, education and understanding. This presents a problem in areas such as IT where proper feedback is vital. 

·         Cheating is quite common. An example, David Patterson, a professor at the University of California, Berkley who teaches a software engineering course, says, “We found groups of 20 people in a course submitting identical homework.” 

·         Courses are predominantly not credited. You have to decide how much time you are willing to put into any one topic.

·         Classes have a rather low level of student completion.  50%-80% drop out before the course ends.

·         Without personal contact with instructors and peers, students are prone to reduce their level of effort (no one’s watching)

 

Typical Technology Based Learning Tools and Methods:

Tutorials areusually videos offered as an online program or via CD-ROM and allow students to progress by completing quizzes and competency assessments.

 

Web Conferences and Webinars are simultaneous meetings in a virtual environment.  It can be orchestrated by single or multiple facilitators and archived for various uses.

 

Online Forums or Bulletin Boards allow individuals to post and participate in threaded discussions in specific subjects. Forums may be self-moderated or moderated by an instructor.

 

Electronic Mailing Lists (listservs) aredifferent from online forums in that messages are received through e-mail and are not communally archived.

 

Wikis and Virtual Collaborative Workspaces are collaborative work efforts where members share a virtual space on the web and share, edit, and add documents.

 

Blogs (Weblog) are online journals that are either personal or newsworthy topics encouraging readers to reply to posts.

 

Simulations are ways to role-play in plots through simple or complex interactive games that are based on real life scenarios.

 

Goal-Based Scenarios are simulative exercises with a goal in mind such as pursuing a well defined mission or assignment.  These performances are designed to hone in on specific skills in order to learn.

 

Gaming usually involves players in complex interactive games that track learning objectives and outcomes.

 

Learning Management Systems (LMSs) are mostly designed to register, track and deliver content to students on their progress and skill assessment for instructors.  LMS’s commonly issue course materials through different publishers and providers.

Integrated Learning Systems (ILSs) are more specific in its subject matter and unlike LMS’s are not designed to handle learning objects from dissimilar sources. They are more equipped with hardware tools that help monitor progress, keep records, and store user information files.

 

Alternative training/learning courseware in IT

Acquisition of new skills has become an integral part improving ones job performance. This is particularly true in Information Technology.  As software developers strive to keep up with current trends in the work place, they find that institutions for which they work for have increasingly higher demands. It’s no longer sufficient to play a small role within an organization that is competing globally for their services.

The most effective learning programs are those that include both cognitive and interpersonal skills, followed by skills or tasks that are easily attained.  There is documented evidence that training activities have a positive impact on the performance in productivity, accuracy and efficiency of individuals and teams.

 

Online and onsite IT course providers such as HSGoffer the simplicity of a virtual environment, tailor to a smaller group and are hands-on industry experts. The best time to combine the two styles of learning is when training meets both an organization and employee’s needs.

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