Letter to the editor | Continuing to evolve

November 23, 2013 

In a column Thursday, Rebecca Schuman blasts massive open online courses as being often of poor quality, not helpful to poor people, and just not the answer to the problems of higher education (“Online learning changes course”).

What she fails to recognize is that all novel inventions and innovations that have the potential to disrupt the way of doing things go through a cycle of failures that teach important lessons and develop understanding and knowledge that ultimately lead to successful implementations.

MOOCs are only several years old and are undergoing rapid changes in delivery and style to attract a wide diversity of students from around the world.

Penn State is producing five MOOCs, offered free to the world, in the areas of art, mapping, creativity and innovation, epidemics and the environment. The total enrollments in all the courses will be about 300,000.

The MOOC course I was involved in with two other faculty members recently, Creativity, Innovation and Change, had 129,000 students enrolled — of whom 70 percent were international; and 60 percent were women.

The course is archived and available to view at www.coursera.org/course/cic for readers to judge for themselves the value of a MOOC.

MOOCs will continue to evolve through productive trials and failures, which may ultimately have a very significant impact on the future of higher education.

Jack Matson, State College

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