Keyboard can’t replace college experience

Many students at MSU have experienced what it’s like to share a classroom with hundreds of other students. MSU’s largest lecture classes can be composed of more than 500 students, leaving many to feel the classroom is impersonal and too large for class interaction.

But with technological advances, many students now might be members of classes with tens of thousands of other students using an online classroom taught by a professor from a university the student might not even be familiar with.

These massive open online courses, or MOOCs, are transforming higher education through the use of online tools to share a professor’s lecture with thousands of students across the world. These lectures use crowd-sourcing technology and discussion forums to encourage class involvement and interaction between students and the professor. The creators are hoping to spread higher education courses to all people who have internet access. Many will be able to transfer the credits gained from MOOCs for their degrees at a conventional four-year university.

Editorial Board

Andrew Krietz
Katie Harrington
Alex McClung
Samantha Radecki
Omari Sankofa II

But many are wary about the spread of MOOCs because of the possibility of increased cheating among students and the impersonal experience students will gain using this software.

At the same time, MOOCs could be perfect for people who want to take college courses while still working to pay for education. Being in a large online course would allow them to maintain their employment and not have to adjust their schedule to complete schoolwork or go to class.

It also would be beneficial for students on study abroad trips, or those involved in work-study programs who wish to continue taking classes while abroad or away from their university.

But nothing can compare to the experience provided by a traditional college classroom. Being in a classroom or lecture hall surrounded by students with a professor fueling a discussion allows students to have the opportunity to be involved in class discussions and ask questions face-to-face with a professor. Students are able to gain hands-on experiences and collaborate with classmates on group projects and in-class activities. Ultimately, this experience is more beneficial than anything a computer can provide.

MOOCs also give students more of an opportunity to slack off during class lectures and discussions than in a traditional classroom. Of course, many students still find distractions during class lessons today, but MOOCs could make this worse.

Trying to learn at home is difficult for many students, as distractions such as friends, television or the Internet often divert attention from online lessons. It is possible for a student to succeed in an MOOC, but it most likely would be more difficult than in a regular college course.

It’s encouraging to see people trying to figure out ways to spread education to a larger group of people, but nothing can replace a physical classroom filled with peers and a professor guiding face-to-face discussion. MOOCs are something that could be utilized by hundreds of thousands of people across the world, but for most people, the four-year college plan at a university still is the best choice.

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