The Development of Massive Scale Learning and Its Implications for the Digital Learner

The Development of Massive Scale Learning and Its Implications for the Digital Learner

Samaa Haniya (University of Illinois Urbana Champaign, USA)
Copyright: © 2020 |Pages: 14
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-9304-1.ch013


With the proliferation of technology advancements and the popularity of digital media applications we witness every day, the architecture of knowledge communication of one-to-many in schools has been changed. Traditionally, classrooms would typically consist of a limited number of students being taught with one teacher in a teacher-centered approach. Today, new media and the development in the practices of e-learning have pushed the boundaries on the scale of learning by opening up the doors for more learners across the globe. This is particularly the case with the arrival of massive open online courses, or MOOCs. Drawing on pervious literature review, this chapter aims to investigate the developments of the MOOC phenomenon and examine its protentional implications and challenges for the digital learner.
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In a time of globalization and digitization, higher education is undergoing many changes that take advantage of technology innovations to expand learning beyond spatial and temporal boundaries of universities. Among these notable efforts is the evolution of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), which quickly became one of the fastest growing trends in higher education (Daniel, 2012, Pappano, 2012). The MOOC phenomenon aims to deliver courses from prestigious universities, typically free of charge, to any participant who has access to technological devices, technical skills and broadband connections. Potential learners may participate without the need of being officially admitted and regardless of age, location, or previous educational experience (Johnson et al. 2013; Liyanagunawardena et al. 2013; Yuan & Powell, 2013; Nkuyubwatsi 2014; Hvam 2015).

Despite their recent appearance, MOOCs have received a great deal of attention in media and educational research, an attention which has been controversial at levels not seen with previous educational innovations (Yuan & Powell, 2013; Bulfin, Pangrazio, & Selwyn, 2014; Kovanović, Joksimović, Gašević, Siemens, & Hatala, 2015). On the one hand, some people are overly pessimistic about the innovation of MOOCs, seeing them as a threat to negatively disrupt and jeopardize the current model of higher education. For instance, Clayton Christensen (2013), in one of the interviews by Startup Grind, warns that “in 15 years from now half of US universities may be in bankruptcy.” Christensen was referring to MOOCs as a destructive innovation that is going to put US universities out of business. Similarly, Vardi (2012) wrote, “If I had my wish, I would wave a wand and make MOOCs disappear, but I am afraid that we have let the genie out of the bottle” (p.5). From his point of view, MOOCs will take over the education system, which will eventually displace brick-and-mortar universities.

On the other hand, some scholars hold very ambitious thoughts about MOOCs, seeing them as a savior to problems not only in higher education but also in the globalized world. More specifically, Thomas L. Friedman (2013), in a New York Times article “Revolution Hits the Universities” wrote:

Nothing has more potential to lift more people out of poverty … Nothing has more potential to unlock a billion more brains to solve the world’s biggest problems. And nothing has more potential to enable us to reimagine higher education than the massive open online course, or MOOC.

With respect to these two extreme opposing views, MOOCs are not the magic bullet solution to solve all complicated problems facing the globalized world, nor a giant genie that will eventually make public education vanish and replace the traditional institutions. Instead, the MOOC phenomenon acts as an optional e-learning model that continues to proliferate as a part of academic teaching in the complex ecology of higher education. They offer learning opportunities for a wide spectrum of learners to participate in unique ways beyond the restricted rules of universities as we have known them.

This chapter aims to capture the possibilities and the affordances that this new model has to offer for learning and its intended users while also shedding lights on the knotty problems associated with its deployment that may impact the digital learner. Drawing upon existing literature and empirical evidence, first the chapter delves into the background of the MOOCs phenomenon and its evolution thus far. Then, the chapter will explicitly discuss the potential implications of MOOCs that may positively disrupt the learning process in the context of higher education. Finally, the chapter highlights the challenges that are associated with this learning model.

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