We should embrace open online courses

By Morgan Corley

Massive Open Online Courses are a good thing. While there are people who believe they are a waste of time and resources, widely available education will always be a positive thing.

MOOCs are one of the newest trends among universities. Universities will post entire classes worth of information and material online so that anyone can access it. Those enrolled in the courses are privy to almost all the same information as the tuition-paying students.

There are those who argue that because MOOCs are free, there is no incentive to keep up with the class. Students do not face any sort of penalty for failing or not finishing the class.  But if you look at current college retention rates, you can see that there are already plenty of students already who don’t care about their classes.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, only 59 percent of those who begin pursuing a bachelor’s degree will complete it.

The rate of students at community college and other two-year institutions who finish their associate’s degree is even lower, languishing at a depressing 31 percent.

Students who fail to complete their degrees every year are wasting more than their own time. They are wasting money. It doesn’t matter if it is their own money, their parents’ money, financial aid, or grants and scholarships. If you fail to complete your degree, you are wasting someone’s money.

While the completion rate for MOOCs is still quite low — around 5 percent, according a study released by MIT and Harvard in January — they don’t come with the financial burden that traditional classroom education does.  According to the same study, from fall 2012 through summer 2013, more than 43,000 participants earned certificates of completion. None of these people had to pay a dime for their education.

They just had to have the drive to follow through.

MOOCs are also beneficial because they allow students to complete their courses in as little time as they want.  Some students have the focus and stamina to finish their MOOCs faster than the time allotted. Thanks to the flexible structure of MOOCs, they are able to do so and still receive their certificate of completion.

Because MOOCs are only available online, anyone with access to the Internet can participate. If you can go online, you can learn.

More institutions should support MOOCs. It is time for them to become more widely accepted as an affordable alternative to a traditional brick-and-mortar education.

Why not encourage the widespread availability of knowledge? Society advances the most when those with the drive for education can pursue their passions. These are the people who change the world.

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