MOOCs Are Fast Becoming A Worldwide Phenomena

According to a new Forum on MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses), there are over 500 such initiatives in the world.

Everywhere it seems, the cost of getting a college degree is no longer affordable to most young people, or in Europe where governments fund college experiences, costs are becoming more troublesome. As a consequence, more universities are looking at blended learning - a form of distant education - or at MOOCs as a possible solution.

MOOCs are free, or if not free they are like Wharton's recent offering of online courses to duplicate much of what its first-year MBA students learn, all for a $49 fee. Students, however, get a verified electronic certificate showing they've completed the courses.

We know about Coursesa, which recently raised an additional $ 43 million from venture capital firms, Udacity, MITx, or edX mostly because they started at Harvard, Stanford, or MIT.

We may not be as familiar with Schoo, a Japanese MOOC with $1.5 million, Futurelearn from England, or iversity, a Berlin based MOOC that conducted a contest giving 25,000 Euros (about $38,000) to the top ten ideas for creating an online course.

iversity, will formally start operating October 15 and, according to Julia Bader, iversity's Director of Communications, "expect(s) to have more students on day one than most universities that have been in operation for centuries," including courses in Contemporary Architecture, taught by a faculty member from the Pratt Institute in New York, Dark Matter in Galaxies: The Last Mystery, Political Philosophy, Algorithms and Data Structures, Introduction to Business Studies, Marketing Basics and Web Engineering among courses ranging from medicine, computer science, business studies, physics and law to design and philosophy.

In the last week, iversity announced that two of their online courses, (algorithms and data structures and fundamentals of marketing), will hand out official ECTS-credits, allowing them to be recognized within all of the European Higher Education Area (EHEA)." Students who pass an on-campus exam after taking these online courses will be granted credit points in accordance with the European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS).

Getting colleges and universities to accept the online courses into their existing curriculum, and awarding certification credit and university degrees put the MOOCs into mainstream position to revolutionize higher education everywhere.

Europe is markedly different. Because of the so-called Bologna Accords, creating the European Higher Education Area, according to Hannes Klopper, Founder and Co-CEO of iversity, "students may be able to move freely and effortlessly between European institutions of higher education. The legal and institutional framework established to allow for this mobility may in fact reach it's objective.... (and) European universities will come to the students by offering their courses online."

As important, says Klopper, is the "Convention on the Recognition of Qualifications concerning Higher Education in the European Region," ... which, unlike in the United States, allows students to demonstrate that their credits are eligible for transfer, and "places the burden of proof on the universities. Universities have to accept transfer credit by default. Any refusal to accept ECTS credits from other accredited institutions must be justified." Thus, the argument is that a common market for university credits within the European Higher Education Area has been established. The U.S. has not even begun undertaking such a similar effort....and may choose not to do so, simply encouraging colleges to pick the courses that best fit their mission.

It is a fact, however, that technology has changed what is taught and how material is digested in ways that allow students to get feedback almost instantly -- and to ask questions without the embarrassment of looking stupid in front of one's peers. The cyber school approach, which MOOCs represent, is fast becoming ordinary and acceptable at high schools and colleges in America, Europe and in other developed nations. It's only a matter of time.