Enter the MOOC. “Massively Open Online Courses » have existed for at least five years, and allow participants to view recorded or live-streaming lectures from university professors through the internet. Some universities offer these lectures free of charge to anyone with an internet connection, whereas others charge a nominal sum but may provide the student with a certificate of participation. Though these certificates cannot replace a bachelor’s or associate’s degree, the rising popularity of these online classes may mean that employers begin taking credentials earned or skills learned from them more seriously. Additionally, in certain modern industries, degrees are not as valuable as they once were when held against one’s work experience, coding ability, or other skills which can be self-taught, so even the knowledge imparted by these courses may be enough to start or improve a career.
But MOOCs have limits. Without offering degrees or a full college experience, they are unlikely to replace standard educational models. Until now, MOOCs have not carried the same weight with businesses during the job application process, although they do prove useful as places for a person to hone his or her skills for industries such as computer programming which do not value degrees as highly. Furthermore, their mass model of higher education has the potential to be co-opted by corporate interests, which could compromise the integrity of the programs.
However, MOOCs by themselves have the potential to be quite useful for building individuals’ skills – either as a supplement to an existing education, or as a replacement for a lack of one. In the third world especially, MOOCs have the potential to bring high-level teaching to a vast population, and hopefully endow the new generation with a wide range of proficiencies and expertise which could improve their lives.