MOOCs: the opportunities and drawbacks

Massive open online courses (MOOCs) have become an important phenomenon for discussion among stakeholders that are related to the area of Higher Education (HE) (Glance, Forsey, & Riley, 2013). The authors claim that the nature of MOOCs being available for students worldwide and accessibility may “potentially disrupt the existing model of HE” (Glance et al., 2013, p.5). MOOC platforms like Coursera, Udacity, edX, FutureLearn are some of the successful examples that made open online learning popular. The authors further develop the opportunities and challenges that HE institutions should put into consideration in order to be sustainable in the field of education. In order to compare the findings I also examined an article MOOCs and open education: Implications for higher education by Yuan, Powell, & CETIS, (2013).

The authors of two articles agree on the main challenge of such systems. It is the quality of instruction. Here is how Yuan et al. (2013) express their concern about the pedagogy in MOOCs:

“There is a risk that the current enthusiasm is being driven by a self-selecting group of highly educated IT literate individuals who are able to navigate the sometimes complex, confusing and intimidating nature of online learning.” (p.3)

The authors also argue that MOOCs lack inclusiveness, because it demands from students to possess high IT skills (Yuan et al., 2013, p.11). The style of instruction differs than that of face-to-face education, relying mostly on students` self-discipline.

The other challenge of MOOCs is a high rate of dropping out. Meyer (2012) reported that (as cited in Yuan et al., 2013, p.11) only 15-20% of students completed the online courses of Stanford, MIT and Berkley successfully. Korn and Levitz (2013) found (as cited in Glance et al., 2013, p.2) that percentage of students who complete the course is 5-15% from that who enrolled in the beginning.

There is another concern that is related to the reliability of such course completing results. Yuan et al., (2013) propose that students may resort to academic dishonesty in order to successfully complete a course, especially if a credit is given (p.12).

Despite the number of negative aspects of massive open online courses, there are some opportunities for higher educational institutions that can help enhance teaching and learning. For example, many students are enrolled into online courses offered by MIT and Harvard. The behavior in online environment is stored and analyzed in order to help institution to enhance such experience (Yuan et al., 2013).

The other benefit that HE institutions who offer MOOCs may have is advertising. Institutions that design high quality online courses may attract more students into formal classes (Yuan et al., 2013)

To sum up, the opportunities that emerge from utilizing MOOCs should be considered as a strong motivation to further develop learning experience of such kind. What MOOCs developers have to do is to thoroughly analyze the drawbacks and take actions to decrease possible negative outcomes.

Image credit


Glance, D. G., Forsey, M., & Riley, M. (2013). The pedagogical foundations of massive open online courses. First Monday, 18(5).

Yuan, L., Powell, S., & CETIS, J. (2013). MOOCs and open education: Implications for higher education.


2 thoughts on “MOOCs: the opportunities and drawbacks

  1. Good visual!

    Only cite the text that you actually read. Your citation:

    Meyer (2012) reported that (as cited in Yuan et al., 2013, p.11) only 15-20% of students completed the online courses of Stanford, MIT and Berkley successfully.


    Meyer (as cited in Yuan et al., 2013, p. 11) reported that…..

    When you put Meyer plus the date, the reader expects to find this listed in the reference list. Instead, just omit the date of the primary source. Here is another example:
    Former surgeon general Dr. David Satcher described “a nation of young people seriously at risk of starting out obese and dooming themselves to the difficult task of overcoming a tough illness” (as cited in Critser, 2003, p. 4).

    Again: If you use a source that was cited in another source (a secondary source), name the original source in your signal phrase. List the secondary source in your reference list and include it in your parenthetical citation, precded by the words “as cited in.” In my example Satcher is the original source, and Critser is the secondary source, given in the reference list.

    Oh, and Berkeley is the correct spelling.

    Your organization is quite good. I see a clear introduction and conclusion. All in all, a good job.



  2. Dear Robyn,

    Thanks for the feedback!

    Citing secondary sources like that was always difficult for me.
    Now after your explanation it became much clearer for me.


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