Panel discussion

“Future educational challenges in computer engineering education:

Will MOOCs be a threat or an opportunity?”


    The acronym “MOOC” stands for “massively open online course.” The New York Times referred to them as a “game-changer.” Today, the major MOOC platforms are the non-profit edX, supported by a consortium of universities led by MIT and Harvard; and the for-profits Coursera, launched by Stanford professors Andrew Ng and Daphne Koller, and Udacity, launched by Sebastian Thrun.

    These online courses are massive in scale enrolling thousands of students limited only by the technology. They are openly available at zero cost. However, some courses charge a minimum fee for the certification. The course is available online and so can be accessed remotely if there is an internet connection. They help in decentralizing the education system. This creates an internet of education. It also helps to overcome the cultural and social barriers that hindered people from accessing education. MOOCs will allow people to educate themselves based on what they want to learn. It gives them a wide range of topics to choose and learn. They can take advantage of the growing computer awareness and IT penetration. MOOCs are already a big hit in rural communities and developing countries where people don’t have as much access to traditional schools and colleges. MOOCs are causing a massive shift in the way people learn and access education. In spite of these advantages, they have their share of disadvantages too.

    The technology is unreliable. There is a lack of interest among the governments to initiate the institutional change. Also the pace of implementation is a grave concern. People worry that this could lead to a one-way transfer of educational materials from the rich countries to the poor countries will amount to a wave of “intellectual neo-colonialism.” Also language is a major barrier to have a global reach. The emphasis shifts from the teacher to the teaching material. Students have to digest the information and learn by themselves. They review the content in isolation and try to learn without access to peers or professors. This makes it difficult to stay motivated. Students are also missing the traditional face-to-face interactions. Lastly, schools and employers do not take MOOCs seriously. Therefore, there is a mixed response from the educators. Some see them as an opportunity and some see them as a threat.