E-Learning

e-Learning was the course I was most looking forward to this semester. When I attempted to enroll, I saw the class was already past capacity and devised a multi-part plan to enroll. Fortunately, my first email request did the trick, so I did not have to spend my winter break begging the professor to let me in.

Condensing what I learned this semester into a few paragraphs is a bit difficult, as I learned a great deal – both from what we read directly in class and from what I pieced together on my own. Before my first day in the e-Learning course, I did not even know what a MOOC was. I figured it out pretty quickly, obviously, but there was a steep learning curve for me throughout the semester.

The most interesting thing I pieced together was that education is undergoing a paradigm shift. The rising cost of education has been disconcerting to me for a while. My undergraduate degree at a private university cost $30,000 per year when I was enrolled from 1998-2001. Five years later, the cost was up to $50,000. Now it is over $60,000 and seems to be growing annually. The rising cost of education feels eerily similar to the dot com crash that I witnessed in 2001 and the housing market crash that I witnessed in 2008. The rise of the MOOC seems to be a direct competitor to formal education, and thus far the prices have been quite competitive. As the MOOCs begin to offer various options for certifications, I foresee universities as we know them pricing themselves out of the market.

e-Learning makes it possible to teach virtually unlimited numbers of students. I see a real shift toward automation and this could mean that fewer professor positions will be available. One of the early articles we read in class discussed the problems associated with MOOCs – mainly in alumni funds generated. Harvard, for example, makes money off of endowments, not tuitions paid, so when searching for the ideal Harvard student, the potential to offer an endowment is part of the equation. When students participate in MOOCs, they feel less of a connection with their university and are, therefore, less likely to donate money in the future.

For our group project, my team focused on studying the elements that made a “good” MOOC and I found some of them quite interesting, though not too far from what I would think would make a good classroom course. The teacher is the single most important factor in determining student satisfaction and retention rates. Shorter courses, free from group work, with not very strict grading receive rave reviews. Also, whether or not a student pays for the course affects the completion rate. If a student pays even a nominal sum of money, he is more likely to complete the course.

All in all, the e-Learning course really made me question the future of education. I believe that as more technologies arise, so will the popularity of MOOCs. I don’t believe that universities will collapse, but I do believe that our prices will need to revert back to affordable and this will wipe out many of the campuses. My mother was able to pay her way through Emory University with a part time job. I will be able to pay back my way through Carnegie Mellon University with 25 years of work. I’m not sure what this new paradigm will look like, but I believe it will look a lot like e-Learning.