Open Online Courses
The increasing use and adaption of technology into our daily lives have resulted in dynamic inventions for its applications. One such dynamic invention is through the online learning environment. This is an evolution of the education system from the normal physical attendance in a classroom environment, to a system where learning materials and exams are performed in an online environment where interaction is virtual. The increased use of this technology has gained wide acclaim across the globe due to the myriads of benefits that can be derived from its use (Thomas 364). However, since this is a new and untested technological and educational system, several issues plague its existence. Therefore, this paper will perform an analysis of the viability of the use of open online courses for the enhancement of the educational system.
History and Use
The use of open courses can be traced back to World War I and II when soldiers were taught using prerecorded video and audio media. The availability of this educational content meant that soldiers did not have to go to classrooms to learn. However, with the advent of technological improvements, computers are being used as an online resource tool for accessing educational content via the Internet. In 2007, the involvement of top American universities in open online content served to increase its use and availability. These universities uploaded educational content from their lecturers and professors that could be accessed freely and openly. Web applications and Internet sites, such as Coursera, Udacity, and EdX have increased the ease and availability of open online content through the creation of peer-to-peer interactive interfaces.
This resource has experienced massive support and criticism from internal and external sources within the educational system. Its support has been profound on a global scale due to its ease of accessibility and content provided. The introduction of content from such universities as Harvard and Stanford meant that the content uploaded for these online courses was of high quality. The materials that were uploaded were videos, eBooks, and audio recordings among others. This meant that users had a wide variety of educational materials from different media that would suit their learning needs.
Additionally, the increased use of the Internet as a social and learning tool has allowed for the widespread nature of these courses. For instance, in 2012, a young Pakistani girl shocked the world when she revealed that she had acquired education using the online learning environment (Thomas 360). This widespread nature of open online courses can be evidenced by statistics indicating that at least 38% of the American population is involved in the open online learning environment. This rise is mainly attributed to its widespread nature, availability, and ease of access of useful learning content.
The increased number of people working but willing to advance their educational prowess has resulted in people looking for means to achieve this endeavor. Therefore, since open learning offers a means for people to learn freely, its popularity has gained acclaim globally. The lack of clear guidelines for people to adhere to strict classroom periods and curriculum has resulted in the open online environment becoming attractive. These courses allow a person to structure their time in a manner that would ensure the period for learning does not interfere with their job. Therefore, many people consider this resource as an attractive tool for advancing their knowledge base on their own time.
The open online courses are usually offered freely to all people regardless of educational background, or geographical location. This allows for the use of this tool as a favorable learning resource since today’s world is plagued by a very expensive educational system that could be unaffordable to many people. Additionally, the widespread nature of the use of the Internet, coupled with globalization allows for many people across the world to access the resources. The time zone differences are inconsequential since online learning is open on a nonstop 24-hour basis.
Additionally, English is considered a very popular language that is being used by more than a quarter of the world’s population (U.S. Department of Education, Office of Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development n.d). The majority of the content being uploaded to be used as open online educational material is written, spoken, or displayed in English. Therefore, the elimination of language as a barrier to communication and access and comprehension of the educational content is eliminated. This increases the scope and use of open online courses as a favorable educational resource.
The usefulness of the online environment as a priority-learning tool has resulted in the users accessing the materials in real-time. For instance, if the users are informed in time, they can watch and in some instances participate in the lectures occurring in real-time. This interaction can be achieved through three distinctive categories; peer to peer interaction, peer-to-online educational content, such as lecture notes and books, and peer to instructor learning interaction. The peer to instructor category allows the users to interact with their instructors or tutors and engage them in real-time. Peer-to-peer interaction is considered one of the major and useful resources for online learning since it allows users to interact freely with each other and engage in useful and meaningful discussions. It has been lauded as a useful educational tool that promotes interactions with fellow students and professionals that would be helpful in the learning and discussions on different educational and social issues that are pertinent to the improvement of one’s professional, educational, and social lifestyles.
The viability of an open online environment as an educational tool can also be ascertained with the ease of penetration into the courses (McHaney 210). Qualification for access to use the course is indeterminate of one’s educational or professional qualifications, hence making them attractive for different people to access them regardless of income levels, social status, or educational background. For instance, an engineer can access and learn educational material rich in human resource management without the need to have an educational background in management or human resource.
However, critics are wary of this widespread nature of open online learning. This is because they consider this learning as lacking clear guidelines, assessment of the online courses, and regulations. Consequently, the majority of the universities offering their content for use of open online learning do not seem to recognize them as valid educational tools. None of the universities offering their educational content for use offer any form of certification or educational recognition for persons that have completed the online course. This is because they do not believe that the manner that the educational content is gained by the user is sufficient for accreditation.
In most universities, the only certification that a person can gain from the university is an accreditation certificate from the professor whose material is online. This certification for completion is unrecognized by any educational or professional body. For instance, Ethiopia has banned all forms of certifications that have been achieved through online education. Therefore, it is plausible for critics of open online learning to be successful in passing their point that this system does not serve to train a person for a certain subject or discipline.
One of the major issues that have been identified as being the causality for a lack of recognition of these courses is the lack of proctored tests for individuals that have completed the courses. Additionally, critics believe that it is difficult for open online learners to acquire the necessary tools that could be achieved in a physical classroom environment (McHaney 118). Contrastingly, a Meta-analysis that was performed in the US indicated that students involved in the open online learning environment performed better than those students who attended classes physically. Therefore, this shows that despite the overwhelming evidence of the unsuitability of online learning, there is also massive evidence that shows its beneficial nature for its students. Therefore, to address the issues regarding open online learning, more players drawn from the academic and professional need to join and formulate mechanisms for increasing the viability of online learning. The move towards a digital age means that it is more important for this strategy to be implemented and investigated so that the educational system can be in tandem with the changing digital environment.
McHaney, Rodgers. The New Digital Shoreline: How Web 2.0 and Millennials Are Revolutionizing Higher Education. Virginia: Stylus Publishing, LLC, 2011. Print.
Thomas, J. W. Mathew. Learning within incoherent structures: the space of online discussion forums. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 18. 3 (2002): 351-366.
U.S. Department of Education, Office of Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development. Evaluation of evidence-based practices in online learning: A meta-analysis and review of online learning studies. Washington, DC, 2009. Print.