Skepticism about massive open online courses reigns supreme in higher education, according to the latest findings about faculty attitudes toward online learning. These massive open courses, more popularly known as MOOCs, are the bright new stars in the education world. But research from Inside Higher Ed’s 2013 Survey of Faculty Attitudes on Technology indicates America’s educators aren’t so keen on MOOCs. The Inside Higher Ed survey sought to understand how faculty members and educational technology leaders use online learning and new technologies, such as MOOCs and learning management systems, in delivering course content. Their findings revealed skepticism about the value of these courses, even if hosted by a university.
Still Skeptical About Value of MOOCs in Higher Education
Many faculty members question the value of MOOCs, with 70 percent saying recent news articles have inflated the value of these massive online courses. Even more condemning? Less than one-third of professors and technology officers surveyed agree or strongly agree that MOOCs have great potential to positively affect higher education. When asked if MOOCs made them excited about the future of academia, 66 percent disagreed or strongly disagreed with the statement. But Inside Higher Ed’s data shows that many of these skeptics haven’t actually taught an online course. Just 30 percent of respondents have led a distance learning class. And only one out of 10 surveyed indicated that their school offered a MOOC. Instructors who’ve taught an online course are overall more supportive of online learning and value it more. Faculty’s lack of personal experience with MOOCs certainly could play a role in the study’s findings. These free online courses also tend to be dominantly STEM classes—science, technology, engineering and math. Of the faculty who participated in the study, 47 percent were in the humanities and social sciences, while just 24 percent were in STEM fields. Other findings from the study include:
- Just 7 percent of professors strongly agree that online courses can achieve student learning outcomes that are at least equivalent to brick-and-mortar courses at any institution
- Accreditation tops the list for factors that contribute to quality in online education, according to faculty members
- 59 percent say that whether an online program is offered by an institution that also offers in-person instruction is a “very important” indicator of quality
- Faculty members and technology officers alike agree that their institutions fail to reward teaching with technology in tenure and promotion decisions
With nonprofit institutes like Georgia Tech now offering MOOC-based degrees, the question remains whether faculty attitudes will turn from skepticism to support—or perhaps not—as more universities add MOOCs.
About the Author: Rachel Wang graduated from Grove City College with a major in English and minor in Communications. She also holds a master's degree in library and information science from Kent State University. She is an experienced content manager, editor and writer with a background in journalism and online media. Rachel specializes in online learning news and trends for the Get Educated news team. In her spare time, she likes to read, bake and attempt to learn Chinese.