Coursera, one of the largest providers of Massively Open Online Courses (henceforth referred to as MOOC’s) is a learning platform which offers over 400 free courses to around 4 million students all around the world. edX is also a MOOC provider; it offers over 700 courses, many of which are university level, and it’s catalog of courses is diverse. It caters to around 7 million students. These statistics of both Coursera and edX point towards one thing: online learning is transforming education as we know it.

The popularity of online courses is understandable. The nature of the platform appeals to learners who want to learn even if they are constrained for time or money. The self paced nature nature of online courses ensures that learners can engage with the course according to the time that is best for them. This convenience afforded to students can result in more willingness to take part in online courses if it doesn’t result in sacrifices of commitments in their real life. Due to these courses being accessible from anyplace that has an internet connection, the geographical boundaries that might restrict students of conventional education are virtually non-existent here. And when many thousands of students take the same class, there can be lively discussions on the online forums as every student brings their own unique perspective to the table.

 

However, online education is not without it’s flaws. With the only interaction between students and teachers being virtual, the quality of the teaching will never be equal to that offered by conventional education. Online learning is also not very suited for difficult or technical courses. To attract the maximum number of students, courses often water down the content to make it more accessible and easier for students.

 

Online learning is an iteration, not a revolution, in the learning process. It is nearly impossible for conventional education to be completely replaced by online education. Even though both methods are united it the common goal of dispensing education, their methods of actually doing so as well as the targeted audience are different. However, hybrid education shows a lot of promise, for example students learning through online lectures and then solving difficult problems in class. In the end though, it is clear that while online education may not be able to go all they way, it has still come significantly close to achieving the goal of education for all.

~Uzair Khan

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