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Is a major disruption brewing in higher learning, or is it a minor annoyance?

For those paying attention to news coming out of higher education over the past few months, it may feel somewhat similar to being at a tennis match, watching the ball go back and forth from opposing courts. In this case, the opposing courts are viewpoints as to the recent Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) phenomenon that has swept through higher education. As often happens with a contentious issue, it seems that there are two camps forming: those that view MOOCs as a major disruption of the status-quo and those who merely view it as a passing fad, albeit with interesting implications. Several articles have recently appeared on the Internet documenting this split.

In one, perhaps not surprisingly, the most vocal supporters of the view that MOOCs stand to change the world are the MOOCs’ founders, but they have interesting company joined alongside them. Daphne Koller, one of the co-founders of Coursera, which is the largest of the MOOC providers, quips in one article: “This is a wholesale change in the educational ecosystem.” Founders of the other MOOC providers echo her enthusiasm and are all in agreement that providing free and open access to online education is going to be a paradigm shift in the field, from which there is no going back. Apparently, Bill Gates is also of this mindset, dubbing one of the MOOC founders the world’s favorite teacher.

Of course, not everyone feels the same about just how deeply the impact of this recently emerging phenomenon will be felt. Another article outlines some skeptical viewpoints towards this attempt at the democratization of education. It seems that while many are feeling that MOOCs represent a permanent changing of the guard, others – many of whom are entrenched in analogue education – do not view this to be a silver bullet at all. The hailstorm of controversy that has been brought about by the phenomenon is nothing new and, much like online proctoring as we at ProctorU know, is merely an off-shoot of the trend towards more and more implementation of online learning.

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