Published on 2012/11/23

How Can MOOCs Support Liberal Arts and Professional Training?

As increasing numbers of institutions begin developing Massive Open Online Courses of their own to offer through some of the major providers, or as their own content, questions are being raised about their efficacy.

In a recent Higher Ed Mash Up blog post by William Weltzer, he asks what kind of impact the MOOC phenomenon will have on institutions which blend liberal arts with professional training.

While he points out that, at first glance, mixing MOOCs into this educational environment would seem unrelated—after all, a liberal arts curriculum should focus on soft and “higher order” skills which cannot be developed in a classroom of thousands, and professional training requires deeper interactions between students and their educators—this is not necessarily the case.

Online learning resources such as MOOCs, TED talks and classes delivered through the Khan Academy are gaining momentum because today’s students are more tech-savvy and become more adept at personal learning than their predecessors. Moreover, it is difficult to match the quality and, surprisingly, the personalization available through online resources in the classroom or in a lecture hall. Further still, offering online learning resources offers institutions the chance to realign their instructional spending and focus on different strategic priorities.

This building of personal learning capacity is really one of the biggest advantages that the online learning boom provides for higher education institutions. On top of providing students with an incredibly valuable capacity to learn needed skills by themselves, such an approach to education frees up classroom time for activities that can only be accomplished in the classroom.

This process must take stock of the opinions of students and faculty to see how they want to move forward with MOOCs, and that usage must blend with the institutional culture and mission, according to Weltzer.

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