Free online education: Who decides if it is failing?

Staying up to date with research or advancing my understanding of particular topics that were quickly covered in a semester (4 months) is always a challenge. Thankfully, social media is creating a whole new variety of learning options. Massively Open Online Courses – MOOC for short – are one of these new and great options.

MOOC take online learning a step further than websites, blogs, podcasts or videos. A MOOC is an entire educational course. They come in all sort of shapes and varieties. Although there has been a lot of coverage of the impact of MOOCs in the competitions for post-secondary education, it seems only a small (2 – 14%) of the thousands that enrol stick around until the end of the course.  Many academics and commentators talk about how this means that MOOCs are failing. While it may be a sign they aren’t perfect, and face-to-face education has a lot of value, it may  also point to the fact that learners’ goals may be different than teachers.

Recently I signed up for my second online MOOC. The first one I took was Health Informatics. Listen to many of the lectures while traveling, and opted out of the assignments, since I didn’t need the credit. It was a great course, and it was fun to audit. Now, I’m signed up for Antimicrobial Stewardship: Optimization of Antibiotic Practices.

 Antimicrobial Stewardship: Optimization of Antibiotic Practices

This is another course I still don’t need the credit for, but do extend to complete, because it is related to my work. The nice part is there is not a pressure for grades, and no cost. So may commutes, downtime, or time on the spinning bike can turn into learning time. The great part is that the course is multimedia: audio, video, text, is taught by world class teachers, and I can pick it up when it is convenient for me. Even after the first few lectures my understanding of the subject is enhanced and I know better questions to ask related to the subject when researching bacterial susceptibility and antimicrobial coverage.

I may never finish the course, but in my the course is a huge success in my continuing education.

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