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Limitations of MOOCs

Page history last edited by Xuan Nguyen 11 years, 3 months ago


The most common criticisms about MOOCs concern the need for assessment and credentials, learners’ motivation (mostly autonomy), the quality of learning resources, and the sustainability of the model (Daniel, 2012; Downes, 2012a; Haywood, 2012; Left, 2012; Mak, 2012b).


Notably, most MOOCs, especially those organized by prestigious facilitators and elite universities attract a surprisingly enormous participation (Hobbes, 2012). Nonetheless, Vaidhyanathan (2012) argues, “enthusiasts love to pump up the enrolment numbers but fail to cite the attrition numbers” (para. 24). She further explains that most of the MOOCs that have been deemed “successful”, which is mostly, if not entirely, based on the subscription rate rather than any indication about the value students got from them (Haywood, 2012; Left, 2012; Vaidhyanathan, 2012; Watters, 2012a), tend to be math-and-computer based, and vocational rather than exploratory, idea-based, or laboratory-based (Vaidhyanathan, 2012). Similarly, in criticizing xMOOCs, Lugton (2012a) claims that they do not work so well for conceptual problems. Thus, as Haywood (2012) indicates, not all subjects can be taught in MOOCs.


Interaction, feedback, assessment and accreditation in MOOCs are also problematic. Though questions are welcome in xMOOCs discussion forums, answers might not always be expected (Lugton, 2012a). Apparently, actual interaction among participants and between them and their professor is extremely limited, especially when they amount to hundreds of thousands (Hobbes, 2012; Mak, 2012b). Consequently, students’ learning is rather passive and linear as knowledge is pre-packaged and transferred from the professor to the learners with the mere goal of absorption of fixed competencies (Quinn, 2012; Lugton, 2012a). In this way, learning can be tested and certified (Lugton, 2012a), and thus, xMOOCs can be easily corporatized or monetized (Morris, 2012a). However, as Left (2012) argues, “a certificate of participation is often seen as having little relevance since it is not based on any rigorous assessment of achievement”. In other words, a certificate of a MOOC completion can hardly be considered as any valid indication of meaningful learning achievement; and hence, credits offered in current MOOCs could hardly be seen as proper qualifications (Kolowich, 2012). (Assessment issues will be discussed in greater details in the following section).


In contrast, cMOOCs offer more interactive and highly social arena for discussion and collaboration in a worldwide web of experts and often keen learners (Lugton, 2012a; Quinn, 2012). However, as this type of connectivist learning is inherently personal and subjective (learners create their own meaning and network of connections) rather than proscriptive (participants set their own learning goals and type of engagement), cMOOC students are not supposed to walk away with a fixed and tested specific body of content. This pure openness is seen as a restriction in respect to assessment and certification, which is clearly not ideal for commercial purposes (Lugton, 2012a).


Motivation of participants in MOOCs is also of central concern. Such questions as what motivates learners and how they can be supported when motivation falters, which is more likely to happen in online courses wherein learning requires effective self-directed learning (Quinn, 2012), have arisen but no adequate answers or proper attention to address have been reported (Walters, 2012c). It is, however, noteworthy that, as Downes (2012d) clarifies, “a MOOC is to create an environment where people who are more advanced reasoners, thinkers, motivators, arguers, and educators can practice their skills in a public way by interacting with each other”. Put it differently, completely voluntary participation is what makes it significantly different from a traditional course and “if you’re not motivated, then you’re not in the MOOC” (Downes, 2012d, para. 8).


Quality is also a critical point about MOOCs despite being established and moderated by individuals and organizations of high expertise. Surprisingly, xMOOCs supported by high-profile education institutions are more likely to be criticised. It is because the xMOOCs providers tend to follow the growing trend of monetizing and bureaucratizing their courses (Hobbes, 2012). Hence, it is reasonable to be cautious that this will become a more horrible online for-profit phenomenon (Groom, 2012) when MOOCs are misused as “a legitimate educational/certifying enterprise”, a modern version of “the textbook industry” (Downes, 2012b).


Last but not least, MOOCs involves a huge investment of resources, either direct or indirect, which are required for developing and delivering process at high quality (Haywood, 2012; Left, 2012). This is posing a number of challenges to the sustainability of MOOC offerings.


N.B.: It’s also worth looking at Armstrong (2012), Bates (2012), and Daniel (2012), and Holton (2012) for more critical discussion over MOOC limitations. 

--> Major issues associated with MOOCs


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