With the backdrop of rising tuition costs, MOOCs have become a practical response to those questioning the economics of a college education. In his article for The Chronicle for Higher Education, MOOCs and Economic Reality, author and professor Clay Shirkey adds some perspective on the financial impact of MOOCs. "This isn't because massive online classes are the future tout court, or because scale is the only way to bring cost and value into acceptable balance--- neither is true---but because they are the first practical alternative to college classes as a way of learning complex things cheaply. As with other inventions that produced an inferior product at a much lower price, from the printing press to the steam-driven loom to Wikipedia, what happens now is largely in the hands of the people experimenting with these new tools, rather than defending themselves from them." The Wikipedia explanation of the financial and institutional cost of preparing and implementing a massive online course highlights the effort and cost involved in taking on this new educational model.
The emergence of MOOC offerings by a growing number of schools is a convergence of the economics of our day and our computer directed, internet connected lives. These online courses are more likely a first step in the transforming of our educational model, rather than a replacement for traditional face to face learning. As we learn more about this new method of course delivery, we can embrace the opportunity for dialogue. To grasp the potential impact on student learning it is important to understand the factors driving MOOCs and what the proposed outcomes are. The article, "Who Is Driving the Online Locomotive" takes a look at some of these factors. MOOCs may not be a completely new way for students to learn, nor a direct challenge to traditional learning models, but they do signify a change in how current and future students (and their parents) view access to education. Our response to this change will guide our institutions to MOOCs and beyond.