October 2, 2012

Editorial: Educating the World Through MOOCs

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In a forum on Thursday, professors debated whether Cornell should join its peer universities in offering MOOCs, or massive open online courses — a trend taking off in the world of higher education. MOOCs have great potential to make education more accessible to everyone, regardless of resources or level of education. Cornell should join its fellow institutions in spreading its resources and providing free opportunities to access academia.

According to the New York Times, only 30 percent of Americans over the age of 25 have a bachelor’s degree. Potentially adding to the paucity of college graduates, the cost of a college education is often exorbitant and continues to rise relative to inflation, making it inaccessible to many.

With a public education system plagued by many complex issues, creating alternative means of academic enrichment is necessary. MOOCs are a means through which education can be spread. Information is being shared in more ways than ever and to an unprecedented degree. Between the vast amounts of articles and publications available online and projects like TED, access to information is changing immensely. Cornell should not isolate itself from this growing trend. Instead, Cornell has an opportunity to join and further shape a movement that is rapidly gaining momentum. If Cornell wishes to remain part of the relevant dialogue in education, introducing MOOCs will be invaluable.

It is not just Cornell’s position as a leader in academia in question. The University also has an incredible opportunity to perform a public service; above all, MOOCs serve to enrich the world population by spreading education. Education benefits not only the individual but also society, and Cornell should maintain its historical dedication to bettering society by educating the individual. Using MOOCs, Cornell can do this on a much larger scale than ever before.

While some may worry that MOOCs devalue a college degree, MOOCs could not replace the traditional university, where students gain personal feedback, can enroll in small courses and develop personal relationships with professors and other students. The communal nature of a college campus is almost impossible to recreate through the Internet. MOOCs simply allow more people to engage with higher education and the information and philosophies of professors that are shaping their respective fields. We hope that the University will take this tremendous opportunity and join the growing number of Universities offering MOOCs.