Are online classes as effective as traditional higher education?

Posted on October 11th, 2013

We’ve written a lot about the rise of online education and how it can help you save money and time getting a college degree. Over the past year, massive open online courses (MOOCs) have exploded in popularity, with course providers edX and Coursera becoming two of the biggest higher-education organizations in the world. These massive open online courses, offered by MIT and Harvard and Stanford, respectively, have  a combined six million registered users.

MOOCs combine education from some of the best universities in the world with the convenience of learning at any time or place–at no cost. But are they too good to be true?

According to Hechinger Report, more people have begun to question whether MOOCs are a solution to the higher education’s problems and whether they are a suitable replacement for conventional in-person classes.

Even Anant Agarwal, the president of edX, argues that it’s just too early to tell.

But, he explains, MOOCs should be seen as a way to enhance in-person study, not just a quick fix or easy way to get a college degree. College professors, for example, have begun uploading archived lectures that students can watch, restart, and watch again to complement their regular classes.

Agarwal says MOOCs should not be seen as a quick fix for all of the problems in higher education; rather, they’re an step in improving education quality and increasing access to education without the high cost of traditional universities.

The challenges of education are so large that our entire community has been seeking a solution, and online learning and MOOCs are seen as a potential silver bullet. Everybody really gets excited about it. But the jury is still out in terms of whether and to what extent purely online education is effective.

MOOCs require a lot of self-discipline and hard work, and not everyone can successfully complete these courses without regular feedback and communication from an instructor. But for motivated students, they can be a great way to gain exposure to a field without spending thousands of dollars.

Check out more of our posts on MOOCs and the rise of online education on our blog.

Category: Choosing a College

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