Massive Open Online Courses: Promoting Intercultural Communication

Massive Open Online Courses: Promoting Intercultural Communication

Shikha Gupta, Samarth Gupta
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-8921-2.ch015
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Multimedia technology and the internet have revolutionized the delivery and the reach of education through massive open online courses (MOOCs). Starting in 2011 when professors from Stanford University took a lead in starting such courses, teaching/learning through MOOCs has become a revolution of sorts with the professors and the higher education institutions (HEIs) realizing the benefits of several thousand students registering for an online course. Today, more than 11000 MOOCs are available from various countries spanning diverse cultures and languages, disrupting the teaching/learning models in the HEIs. This chapter outlines the history of MOOCs. It also suggests research questions towards the use of MOOCs in promoting international/intercultural communication. A critical assessment of the impact of online learning and MOOCs in the COVID-19 era is also presented.
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The COVID-19 pandemic propelled educators everywhere to shift from the traditional methods of imparting education through classroom teaching to a solely online approach using the current day’s technologies. Online learning has its roots in the concept of distance learning that started with the goal of delivering education. Distance learning is a method where the teacher and the learner are separate in space and possibly time (Keegan, 1995), (Blieszner & Teaster, 1999). Initially relying on postal services and later supplemented by radio broadcasting, distance learning engages students, often on an individual basis, who cannot be physically present in a traditional educational setting such as classrooms. It dates back at least as early as 1728 when an advertisement was placed in the Boston Gazette by Caleb Phillips seeking students for lessons on the new method of Short Hand (Gupta, Taneja, & Kumar, 2015).

Online education is the modern form of distance learning where the Internet often unites the distance learning instructor with the learner. Audio, video, computer, and networking technologies are often combined to create a multifaceted instructional delivery system. In comparison to the mature methods of distance learning such as the correspondence course method of education delivery, or the television method, or the video-conferencing method, the online learning method has a requirement of the content being delivered partially or fully based on the Internet. The strength of an online system is its flexibility in allowing students to take lessons at their pace and schedule. All the lectures are recorded, thereby allowing students to repeat the lessons. Also, this form of teaching greatly reduces the load on resources like classrooms, parking areas, and traveling time. While the technology provides the necessary support for online learning, the delivery mechanism does not define the pedagogical practice. An online class is not simply a digitized version of a traditional classroom. Rather, an online instructor must utilize the technology to implement the best pedagogy. As opposed to only listening to and learning, a highly interactive and engaging environment is more suitable for student learning. Experiential and interactive exercises as online assignments help in reinforcing concepts and testing a student's knowledge. That is, a student-centered learning approach with active learning activities is an effective online pedagogy (O'Neil, 2013).

In the last decade, the lure of online learning in providing more flexible access to content and instruction at any time and from any place, motivated universities across all continents to create Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are open to students across the world without any limitations on the number of seats, geography, or qualifications. A wide array of choices is available to the students, each student having the freedom to decide the university and the professor. Many online courses also offer opportunities for the students to interact with the professors teaching the course. In turn, the huge volume of students has been motivating many universities to compete to offer better education options. The advent of the MOOC era has made accessible the intellect and knowledge of the likes of Stanford, MIT, and Harvard professors to every enthusiastic learner who wants to achieve higher goals in education. The analysis is supported using the data of growth of the MOOC movement in the last decade (Table 1) from Class Central, a search engine and reviews site for free online courses (Shah, 2012), (Shah, 2013), (Shah, 2014), (Shah, 2015), (Shah, 2016), (Shah, 2017), (Shah, 2018), (Shah, 2019), (Shah, 2020).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Internationalisation of the Curriculum: Internationalisation of the curriculum is the incorporation of an international and intercultural dimension into the content of the curriculum as well as the teaching and learning processes and support services of a program of study ( Leask, 2009 ).

Intercultural Communication: “Intercultural” encompasses ethnic, religious, cultural, national, and geographic variances, and “communication” is perceived to be a verbal exchange of ideas and messages through the use of language, and involves an element of understanding on the part of the participants ( Arasaratnam, 2005 ).

Distance Learning: Distance learning is a method where the teacher and the learner are separate in space and possibly time ( Hénard et al., 2012 ; Bates, 2013 ).

Connectivism: According to George Siemens, “Connectivism is a learning theory for the Digital Age.” In Connectivism, learning is a process that occurs based upon a variety of continuously shifting elements. The “starting point of learning is the individual who feeds information into the network, which feeds information back to individuals who in turn feed information back into the network as part of a cycle” ( Siemens, 2003 ).

Online Education: Online education is the modern form of distance learning with the Internet often uniting the distance learning instructor with distance learner.

Open Educational Resources: Open educational resources are defined as teaching, learning, or research materials that are in the public domain or released with an intellectual property license that allows for free use, adaptation, and distribution ( UNESCO, 2011 ).

MOOC: Massive open online courses (MOOCs) are online courses that are accessible to anyone with internet access, irrespective of their location. MOOC courses do not limit the number of participants and may allow thousands or even millions of learners.

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