MOOCs, a new teaching alternative


MOOCs offer education in a flexible format, promote participation and collaboration, create awareness and responsibility in participants regarding their learning process, and foment Mobile Learning. 

By Sandra Miranda Leal

The rise of the Internet and the consolidation of ICT as a fundamental educational support tool have created opportunities for people who lack the time and/or resources to continue their education and professional updating.

Nowadays, one of the educational trends with the fastest growing following are MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses):

  1. Massive: limitless participants – in fact, the higher number of participants, the greater the exchange of knowledge. MOOCs use Social learning, which means that participants learn from other participants, and also help them to learn. The massive quality leads to a peculiarity – the activities completed by the MOOC participants are not evaluated by the instructor, but by at least two other MOOC participants, who also offer feedback. This is how students learn from others and help others to learn. This very peculiarity has also given rise to criticisms and doubts about the effectiveness of the MOOC.

  2. Open: this term can be understood as free of charge, but it also means that there are no enrollment requirements. The most popular MOOC are taught by professors from the leading universities in the world, so participants have access to a top-quality education for free (although participants will not receive a certificate). It must be noted that the majority of the MOOCs offer the option of paying for a certificate, though at a much lower cost in comparison with the fees for enrolling in that course at the university to which the professor belongs.

  3. Online, because the course is delivered over the Internet; in fact, MOOCs foment Mobile Learning.

MOOCs offer education in a flexible format, promote participation and collaboration, create awareness and responsibility in participants regarding their learning process, favor lifelong learning, foster networking, and represent a space for multiculturality.

The most important MOOC platforms include Coursera, Udacity and EdX. How do you choose? It depends on what participants are looking for, their likings, expectations and learning style. They should explore several options before enrolling in a specific course.

MOOCs offer education in a flexible format, promote participation and collaboration, create awareness and responsibility in participants regarding their learning process, and foment Mobile Learning.

Seeking to have a positive impact on students’ teaching-learning process, Campus Morelia developed its first MOOC, Enhancing Writing and Speaking Skills in English, which is available worldwide on the well-known platform Coursera. This MOOC has been implemented continuously since the January-May 2016 semester as part of the English course. One of its most important features is that it targets for diverse levels of proficiency, from intermediate to advanced.

The advantages we have observed of implementing this MOOC include:

  1. Greater student engagement in assignments, since knowing that they are going to interact with students from other groups/levels and/or students from other campuses (cities), motivates and inspires them to participate actively.

  2. Knowing that their fellow students, and not the professor, will provide feedback on the activities they submit takes the pressure off and reduces the stress often generated by a fear of making mistakes.

  3. The opportunity to offer feedback to their classmates enhances students’ confidence in their knowledge and allows them to identify their strengths and weaknesses regarding the mastery of a topic.

  4. Professors Frank Stonehouse, Georgina Gaytan and Sandra Miranda are the instructors of the MOOC, which consists of four module-weeks and promotes oral and written communication in high school students. Its main objective is to offer participants the chance to put into practice what they have learned in the English class within a semi-controlled setting outside the classroom, thus promoting mobile learning and social learning.

Students from different groups and levels of English interact and act as evaluators of their peers’ activities, learn from others and promote learning in their classmates.  The MOOC activities are integrated into students’ regular assessments, replacing weekly assignments. Each module was conceptualized using topics that are relevant and attractive for students and consist of two deliverables: an essay and an oral presentation. Moreover, each module contains instructional videos, additional reading material, exercises and multiple-choice quizzes.

Considering its local implementations (only groups from Campus Morelia) and national implementation (groups from three different campuses participating simultaneously), over 300 students have already completed this MOOC. In fact, some professors have also taken this course. 

Participants answer a survey at the end of each implementation and, so far, the following results have been reported:

  • More than 50% of participants report having learned from the feedback provided by their fellow students and more than 60% consider that they helped their fellow students to learn.
  • More than 80% of all participants stated that the course enabled them to put their English communication skills into practice and that the course content was relevant and useful – a perception that had been low beforehand.

  • 70% of participants rate the MOOC as Good or Very Good.

Based on these results, we can conclude that MOOCs offer an opportunity to change, enhance or enrich the way in which you learn or teach. Think about a subject you always wanted to study or you would like to know more about. Now think of the university of your dreams, but that would be impossible attend owing to issues of distance, time or resources.

Now it is possible! Research, explore and learn more about MOOCs currently offered. If you are a teacher, you could develop a MOOC that would give you the chance to share your knowledge, experiences, and, in turn, to learn from your students.

About the author:

Sandra Miranda Leal is a Computer Systems Engineer with a Master’s in Information Science and Knowledge Management. She also teaches English and the courses Computational Logic Thinking and Mobile Application Design and Development. She is a Full-time Faculty Member at PrepaTec, Tecnológico de Monterrey, Campus Morelia.