Online educational platforms or MOOCs (Massive Open Online Course) are growing at a tremendous pace. Online courses are not a new phenomenon; nearly 5.5 million college students in the US are enrolled in at least one online course. However, what makes MOOCs distinct from regular online courses is the fact that most of them are accessible to students around the world at absolutely no cost.
Recent data shows that there are approximately 200 online universities, offering nearly 1200 online courses. More than 1300 online instructors are teaching nearly 10 million students. These figures are astonishing, keeping in mind the fact that a large majority of these courses are completely free.
One of the largest providers of these massive online courses is Coursera, an educational platform offering free courses from top universities worldwide. They are available for anyone and everyone across the globe. There are nearly 6.6 million students enrolled with Coursera, taking 618 courses, being offered by 108 educational partners.
The ultimate mission of online educational platforms is to allow each individual on this planet to have complete access to a world-class education. This is mainly driven from the belief that it is education and education alone, that has the power to improve the lives of people and communities around the world. The overall world literacy rate may be 84.1%, but the reality is that there are still many underdeveloped nations, that have excessively low rates of literacy. For example South Sudan has a literacy rate of only 27%, Mali stands at 27.7%, Afghanistan at 28.1%, Burkina Faso and Niger at 28.7%, Chad 35.4%, Ethiopia 39%, Senegal 39.3%, Guinea 41%, and Benin at 42.4%.
There is no doubt that low levels of literacy as well as a lack of access to quality education are major impediments to the economic development of any nation. Thus, the availability of free and quality education that can be accessed through the Internet is a definite breakthrough in the business model of the education segment and can play an important role in improving the educational and economic status of many people. According to Professor Cathy Davidson [302 from http://blog.coursera.org/post/72646156229/an-experimental-meta-mooc-shaping-the-future-of] of Duke University, "It's not just a MOOC. It's a movement."
MOOCs are also an ideal choice for people who are working full time and cannot find the time to attend colleges and universities. The average age of a Coursera student is around 30 years indicating that the vast majority of its students are those who are working full-time and are committed to improving their skills.
MOOCs can provide many benefits. First and foremost, they can help improve the educational status of millions around the globe. Second, they can help universities and colleges to meet the increasing demand for higher education and can help cut down costs of developing and maintaining physical campuses. Finally, MOOCs can take advantage of digital advancement, by allowing students and teachers to interact without being present in the same geographical location. According to the Educause Center for Analysis and Research, 57.7% of students felt that they learnt more in courses that have an online component. It is thus not surprising that the level of competency and satisfaction is very high with online courses.
Only time will tell whether MOOCs are able to sustain the quality of their material and whether students will continue to enroll online but for now, online education seems to be a tool that has the power to revolutionize the future of education in the years to come.