Wednesday, February 10, 2016

MOOC for Credit?



Change is inevitable.

The Ministry of Higher Education (MOHE) has mandated The Malaysian Qualifications Agency (MQA) to implement the 'MOOCs plus credit recognition and transfer' initiative, which would enable all MOOCs courses from Malaysia and other platforms such as Coursera, Edx, Canvas, etc, to be registered into the Malaysia's MOOC platform and be given credit (MOOCs is the acronym for Massive Open Online Courses).

The question is, are we ready? Yes, and No.
As someone involved directly on the ground, helping to lead the Malaysia MOOC initiative for the 20 Malaysian public universities , I can see the challenges ahead, but as Anthony Robin said, “The only impossible journey is the one you never begin”.

MOOC is a big thing. I believe it is a game changer. Twenty two of the top 25 US universities in US News World Report rankings are now offering courses online for free.

In 2014, the so-called Big 3 MOOC providers, Coursera, Udacity, and edX, introducing their own credentials. Later Udacity announced its Nanodegree program, billed as “Industry credentials for today’s jobs in tech”. Last year, The University of Illinois College of Business launched an online-only iMBA program which cost one-third as much as a master’s degree from an institution of similar stature.

In October last year, MIT announced a pilot program allowing learners worldwide to take a semester’s worth of courses in its top-ranked, one-year Supply Chain Management (SCM) master’s program completely online, then complete an MIT master’s degree by spending a single semester on campus.

All these development are made possible because of the advent of ICT but more important than that is the willingness of the academic leaders at those institutions to reimagine higher education — reimagine the educational model and the processes - admission, curriculum, delivery, assessment, business model etc.

The initiative of ‘MOOC for credit’ announced by the MOHE is actually well beyond even what those institutions in the US have done. It is very bold! MOHE has already leading the way with the unique model of Malaysia MOOC — unique in the sense that it is a national agenda involving all the 20 public universities in Malaysia. It is indeed one of its kind and has become the talking points especially in this part of the world.

Creating a MOOC is actually a huge undertaking and require enormous investment of time, energy and money. Only those people involved directly (course developers and MOOC managers) can appreciate the hard work. For example, Ohio State Assistant Math Professor Jim Fowler has spent more than 1000+ hours developing his Calculus course on Coursera. Indeed, developing an online course is not for the faint hearted.

MOOC actually provides a cursory snapshot of what a university can offer in terms of quality education. Done properly, it can showcase and highlight the strength of the institutions. Therefore, any university embarking on MOOC project must be ready to put in some investment to ensure the courses are developed to the highest standard. For example, Harvard has in-house course production studio with over 50 staff, including specialists in instructional design, production, research, technical operations, and program support.

MOOC for credit requires a change in mindset and paradigm — reimagining higher education. To me, it’s almost UNBUNDLING the system as we know it and familiar with.

Enough for now…to be continued.

Comments from fellow educators are most welcome.

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