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Bringing Online Learning into the Mainstream

Online learning has entered the commonsense of higher education over the past few years, moving away from domination by institutions such as the University of Phoenix and being excitedly adopted by major names in higher education such as Harvard, Stanford and MIT.

PolicyMic’s Sehreen Noor Ali sees great value in the potential online learning as a concept, and MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) specifically could have on higher education—both in terms of quality and accessibility. She argues that major institutions have been turned on to MOOCs because of the service they provide and—probably more importantly—in order to remain on the perceived cutting edge of higher education.

She suggests that in order to become an important mainstay in the higher education field, MOOCs must develop a value proposition to keep themselves relevant, and she presents a few ideas on how to go about it.

First, she suggests that employers must recognize the value of alternate accreditations, like badges being awarded by MITx. In order for this to happen, Ali says MOOCs must prove to policy-makers and educators that their students are adequately equipped with the necessary knowledge.

Second, she suggests streamlining education to employment, a suggestion similar to her first. In this sense, she says MOOCs must demonstrate that their graduates—as it were—have market-ready skills. In this sense, MOOCs can create programs where students learn in the evening and work during the day, creating a more flexible education alternative and culturing graduates toward lifelong learning.

Third, she suggests MOOCs continue to drive the personalized, customized learning experience that made online learning so appealing in the first place. In this way, MOOCs would truly separate themselves from the offerings provided by traditional universities and would certainly increase their value proposition for prospective students or corporations looking for tailored training.

Fourth, she suggests the global presence of MOOCs would present an attractive alternative to attending premier universities for students who cannot afford tuition or, internationally speaking, for students who cannot get a visa to make the move. This international collaboration would also enrich the learning experience of everyone involved.