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Will MOOCs make more mooks?

Monday, June 23, 2014
Science and Society

MOOCs are Massive Open Online Courses. They typically last for seven weeks and are offered by well-funded American entities like Coursera, Udacity and edx. Coursera works with universities to make their courses available online, Georgia Tech is involved with Udacity and MIT, Harvard and the University of California at Berkeley with edx. 


The proffered intent is to make courses from prestigious universities available to students worldwide. There is also quite a significant array of offerings for secondary school students. MOOCs are being hyped as the next big wave in education. A “mook” is Trinidadian slang for a shy and or socially awkward/dysfunctional person. 


One critical outcome of traditional schooling, at all levels, is the development of social skills through interacting with fellow students and teachers. The MOOC approach to education is one to one: student and computer screen (“computer screen” here is used in a generic sense to include tablets and smart phones). What impact will this have on students? Already the experience is that Facebook, WhatsApp and the Internet are producing disruptive behaviours in both the classrooms and in social situations.