Education en mass | digital technology in tertiary education

MOOCs provide education on a global scale, designed for a self-motivated, participatory culture. Traditional methods of academic learning are being pushed aside, making way for a postmodern university located in cyberspace. Online learning is a collision between design and commerce (Bowels 2013), were we are witnessing an extraordinary shift in the way individuals learn.

“The place of the postmodern university is cyberspace. No longer merely local, the university becomes global without being universal. While the local homogenises, the global diversifies”. – Kate Bowels

MOOC stands for Massive Open Online Course, designed to educate en mass and eliminates time and space. Figures show that one online course can have over a quarter of a million students enrolled in one subject, showing great potential for investor power. A range of university partners funds the free enterprise, heightening venture capital, however at the same time reinforcing the importance of online education.

In the US, the rising perception of collage affordability is known to lead to a lifetime of unpaid debt (Bowels 2013). This ideology created a demand for services like MOOCs, which offer cheap and accessible alternative. This dogma of cheap online education is not new however. In Steven Cooper and Mehran Sahami (2013) article they describe a successful launch in 2008 of the Stanford Engineering Everywhere program, which offered free distant education, incorporating similar elements of modern day MOOCs.

The ability for an individual to design their own learning experience is what has made MOOCs so successful. A design flaw in current traditional universities is that you are unable to individually tailor your own course. For example there are always core subjects one must complete and a tutor spoon-feeding you information. Freedom gives individual’s motivation to learn and by taking a philanthropic approach to studies one will enhance acquisition for further information (Bowels 2013). MOOCs encourage participatory engagement by collaborating through a combination of Blogs, Tweets and tags, creating a multitude of network connections. This allows for different ideas and reiterates the notion of independent learning, as there is no single path to follow (Cormier 2013).

“You can choose what you want to do and how you participate. Only you can determine if you were successful. Much like real life” – David Cormier

MOOCs also leave behind a trial of unanswered question regarding validation and accreditation, opening up a significant amount risk. How does one validate original work or detect plagiarism? In an attempt to monitor this challenge Coursera has employed plagiarism detection software, however it is unclear whether it is successful (Cooper & Sahami 2013). These flaws hinder MOOCs ability to be a significant competitor with the traditional model of in-class education.



Bowels, K, 2013 “Lost in the supermarket: MOOCs”, lecture at the University of Wollongong for DIGC335, viewed 20/04/2014 via UOW Moodle.

Cooper, S & Sahami M, 2013, “Reflections on Stanford’s MOOCs: New Possibilities in Online Education Create New Challenges.” Communications of the ACM, 56.2 (Feb. 2013): 28-30. Viewed on the 20/04/2014

Cormier, D 2010, What is a MOOC?, online video, 8 Dec, Youtube, viewed 20/04/2014,



About Nicola Salter

Nicola. 21. UOW Graduate
This entry was posted in DIGC335 and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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