Experiment with MOOCs : A Case of Coursera

Massive open online courses (MOOCs) in the last couple of years have picked up force with millions of enrolments, millions of online free courses and some of the highly reputed institutes participating in it.

One such platform is Coursera, started by two computer science professors of Stanford University Andrew Ng and Daphne Koller. It was founded in the year 2012. Coursera makes use of proprietary platform to which Universities could contribute their contents. Coursera has over 80 participating institutes and some of the prominent ones are Yale, North Western and Stanford. Since its inception the platform has attracted over $65 million. Speaking about the number of enrolments over 4 million and the number of courses over 400. These number do speak a lot about Coursera but ‘nothing appears as it seems to be’. To test it out the researcher undertook some courses available on Coursera over the last couple of months to understand how the process of learning and the whole system of MOOCs works. Based on some the empirical observations. some elements of critique could be brought into the light.

On a Positive Note:

  •  Allows people of all ages to go back to the virtual school to learn.
  •  Good range of courses.
  •  Plenty of data and  information  for each courses.
  •  The key feature of courses is the lecture videos.
  •  Most of the courses provide Certification
  •  Digitized version of classroom lectures from top Universities.
  •  Allows exceptionally qualified teachers to design their own virtual classrooms.
  • On a Negative Note:

  •  The platform behaves like a data repository.
  •  Relies more on Information Transmission.
  •  Learners feel isolated.
  •  Less encouragement from course leaders.
  •  Motivation of the learners follows a ‘Bell’ curve.
  •  Rate of completion in MOOCs, 5 to 10% of the total enrollments.
  •  Operates a blind peer grading system (irrespective of the level).
  •  Deadlines put in could be difficult to meet for working people.
  •  Plagiarism is a rampant issue.

On ‘How to make it Better’ Note:

  • By deriving features from Ubiquitous technologies.
  • Provision for Self paced learning.
  •  Role of an expert as a ‘Facilitator’ than just ‘provider of information’.
  •  Creating a collaborative setting.
  • By creating a Personalized learning environment to address the need of learners, of different learning styles.
  • Creating variables for motivating learners to complete the course.


Technology is growing at a rapid rate and advances taking place in the domain of ICTs, digital networks, mobile computing, handheld devices, social media etc has a impact on the way we work today. This technological leap has transformed the way we communicate with the technologies themselves and how we use these technologies to interact with others socially. But much work still needs to be undertaken create a learning experience suited to learners of different needs and styles.

Based on the points raised above, it could be comfortably said that MOOCs has the ability to impart knowledge, develop competencies, engage/amaze learners with a variety of media resources. But the ultimate success of systems like Coursera would depend upon how such systems are designed, implemented and evaluated. Several literature has cited the benefits of MOOCs but at the same time there are others which has raised some concerns’ surrounding the existing systems and shouting the need for MOOCs platform to go back to the drawing board to re-design systems using some of the ubiquitous technologies and holistically developing design principles underpinning such systems, all in all able to propagate personalised learning through such systems, by focusing on the learning process itself then the glorification of the technologies used behind the systems.

Learning is a lifelong process. And with the growing R&D in the area of design and development of online learning systems (that gave us the feature) to be used to learn anything, anytime and anywhere it is becoming imperative that we give such systems (or tools) a try to enable us learn much efficiently, effectively and affectively, no matter what the pro’s and con’s speak off.

At the beginning there were would a level of  aversion towards using MOOCs like systems for learning but over time these learning tools would blend into our everyday lives and we would be able to adapt new technologies and thereby accepting new pedagogies that may emerge as a new ray of hope for the future of education. But no matter what tools we use,

Learning should ignite ‘Curiosity’, invoke ‘Creativity’, influence ‘Ingenuity’.

About the Author
Author: Uday NairWebsite: http://www.pretsels.co.uk
Consultant with over 15 years of experience in the field of 'Business Analysis', 'Strategic Growth', 'Training and Coaching', 'e-Learning', 'Data Analytics', ' Research and Development of Ubiquitous Technologies', ' Project Management', 'Social Entrepreneurship' and 'Innovation'. Worked across UK, India, Europe and the Middle East.

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