06 SES 08 A, MOOCs and beyond
Many researchers (Kay et al, 2013; Chen et al, 2013; Liu et al, 2014) consider MOOCs as a means to achieve equality in gaining knowledge through making available equal access to online courses, taught by faculties of different universities around the world. This view is based on such MOOCs characteristic as its openness. Openness means the possibility to register for any online course, as you want, without entrance exams and tuition fees. Thus, any person with access to the Internet can register for any course, presented on the online platform. At the same time, knowledge on the course is not required from any listeners. It seems that the problem of inequality in higher education is solved by MOOCs distribution. After all, anyone regardless of economic, social and cultural capital can listen to online course. However, does equal access to knowledge through online course ensure equality in gaining knowledge?
Firstly, the main language of the most online courses (which used in lectures, online forums, tests and tasks) is English (there are courses in German, Chinese, Russian on the online platform, but its quantity is small). Therefore, the main MOOCs listeners are either native English speaker or those, who have a good command of this language. In this case, we assume that the probability to comprehend the material, presented by faculty, and reach the end of the course is initially higher for those, who is fluent in the language of online course. Therefore, another barrier in gaining knowledge though MOOCs can be “language barrier”. Not by accident, typical MOOCs user, according to some research (Grainger, 2013; Christensen et al, 2013), is young man from developed country with a bachelor’s degree.
Secondly, the progress in studying though MOOCs can depend on initial knowledge and skills of listener. We assume that the probability to comprehend the course material and reach its end is higher for those, who have a good initial preparation for this course. For example, if listener from India enrolled for an introductory economics course, then it would be better for him to have some at least basic knowledge in related fields in order to understand the course material. If he does not have such knowledge, then it would be very difficult for him to cope with this course. We can assume that problem with understanding material presented due to lack of initial preparation will reduce the degree of course satisfaction. Whereas it can weaken academic motivation of the listener, which can eventually lead to dropout from the course. Thus, another barrier in learning material via MOOCs can be “barrier of initial knowledge” or “barrier of cultural capital”, if we define it more broadly.
The presence of the barriers listed above indicates a lack of chances’ equality in gaining knowledge among MOOCs listeners. Economic and cultural capital keep on playing its role in maintaining inequality in higher education, even at the MOOCs level. Thus, we assume that the probability to understand course material and reach its end is higher for listeners with higher level of economic and cultural capital.
1. Kay J., Reimann P., Diebold E., Kummerfeld B. MOOCs: So Many Learners, So Much Potential… University of Sydney, IEEE Computer Society, 2013. 2. Chen X., Barnett D., Stephens C. Fad or Future: The Advantages and Challenges of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). Presented at the Research-to Practice Conference in Adult and Higher Education, Lindenwood University, St.Charles, MO, September 20-21, 2013. 3. Liu M., Kang J., Cao M., Lim M., Ko Y., Myers R. Understanding MOOCs as an Emerging Online Learning Tool: Perspectives from the Student. The American Journal of Distance Education, 28: 147-159, 2014. 4. Grainger B. University of London International Programmes Massive Open Online Course (MOOC). Report, 2013. 5. Christensen G., Steinmetz A., Alcorn B., Bennett A., Woods D., Emanuel E. The MOOC phenomenon: who takes massive open online courses and why? University of Pennsylvania, 2013. 6. Kizilcec R., Piech C., Schneider E. Deconstructing Disengagement: Analyzing Learner Subpopulations in Massive Open Online Courses. Proceedings of the Third International Conference on Learning Analytics and Knowledge, 2013. 7. Liang D., Jia J., Wu X., Miao J., Wang A. Analysis of Learners’ Behaviors and Learning Outcomes in a Massive Open Online Course. Knowledge Management & E-Learning, 6 (3), 2014.
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