What E-Learning (Especially MOOCs) Get Wrong

On a recent webinar on 2016 trends in e-learning, the presenter declared 2016 to be the year when MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) are finally going to start succeeding in disrupting the world of Education.

As an education professional who is always trying to stay up to date on the latest industry buzz and newest trends, I am a regular haunt in free webinars about creating e-learning and e-learning industry trends. Although I am a Software Training Professional (which is a completely different skill set), I spend 90% of my time creating e-learning and like to pull ideas and inspiration from anywhere it is available. On a recent webinar on 2016 trends in e-learning, the presenter declared 2016 to be the year when MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) are finally going to start succeeding in disrupting the world of Education. I have to admit I rolled my eyes at that one.

Education is ripe for disruption, and it couldn’t come at a better time. The 2015 National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) Report Card shows that well under half of the nations students are testing at or above proficiency in any given subject. Recent attempts to use the carrot (throw more money at the problem) or the stick (more testing and consequences as a result of test scores) haven’t fixed the problem. You may not be able to find people who agree on much these days, but the idea that our educational system is in crisis is one area where you will often find agreement.

MOOCs and other e-learning platforms have been around since 2008, and they have promised to be just the disruptive force that education needs. They have been touted as the solution to everything from classroom overcrowding to student engagement. But by and large e-learning and MOOCs created by the Education sector, have failed spectacularly when it comes to solving any of these weighty problems.

Why? The answer lies in how the e-learning and MOOCs have been designed to this point. When they were first created, no thought went into how the ditial realm would be different, or how users accessing the course through a digital medium might have different exptectations. Most of the time the courses were simply video of a lecture delivered by a teacher paired with an online forum function that allowed for interaction between the teacher and the students. Even today, much of the e-learning world relies on this outdated methodology.

When I was taking online courses to become certified as a Healthcare IT Workflow Management and Training Specialist, the coursework was provided via a grant from the government and created by a major university. The courses consisted of PowerPoint slides with recorded narration which many times simply read the text on the slide, but at other times simply delivered a lecture while the words on the slide were in almost no way relevant to what the speakers were saying. It was the ultimate death by PowerPoint. Even now, the courses available from the Microsoft Virtual Academy  for their various certifications are the same thing: two guys reading a PowerPoint.

I believe that MOOCs and e-learning have the potential to be a disruptive force in the world of education, but in order to do that the developers have to move beyond the putting the lecture in a PowerPoint and publishing that as e-learning method they seem to love. There are a lot of companies that have caught on to this and the courses they offer are leaps and bounds ahead of anything produced by the established education sector. But the fact remains that anything created by the education sector remains a decade behind. Without a doubt the PowerPoint methodology is the easiest to produce and the quickest to develop, which makes it appealing to content creators working in Education who often don’t want to put a lot of effort into something they can’t recoup costs from. But when it comes to delivering results, it falls short. If MOOCs are going to have their year, they have a lot of changes they need to make.





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