Educational institutions transforming learning with online courses

As higher education institutions opt to offer massive open online courses (MOOC), how students are learning is transforming along with the MOOC movement, according to The New York Times. Online education is being praised as an innovation that makes learning convenient and affordable for millions of students.

Online course provider Coursera has 5 million students enrolled while nonprofit provider edX has more than 1.3 million, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Recently, Harvard University's business school revealed it would develop online courses, according to Business Insider. These new efforts are part of "HBX," which is similar to the university's current online course offerings called HarvardX. To experts, online education is known as disruption innovation, which is a concept developed by Harvard Business School Professor Clayton Christensen.

"At Harvard Business School, we're getting disrupted by online learning," Christensen said during the World Business Forum in New York City. "It truly isn't as good, but does this technology, over time, get good enough to meet the needs of our customers? The answer is yes."

However, one main problem institutions face as they switch over to offering online courses is not being able to adapt to crucial changes, according to Christensen and Michael Horn, co-founder of the Clayton Christensen Institute, in The New York Times. They suggest MOOCs must be able to incorporate skills certification that attract employers into low-cost programs. To help universities and colleges prepare to offer online courses, they could hire a procurement consultant to help with purchasing decisions regarding IT networks and other needed tools to give students an excellent online education.

Guiding course providers through student engagement issues

Another problem with online courses is students could feel isolated and disengaged, which could result in students dropping out, the Journal reported. More than 90 percent of students who enroll in a MOOC do not complete the course.

"In large part, the experience is very good, but we see that there are problems, and there are a number of things that can be done that have promise," Anant Agarwal, president of edX, told the Journal. "We are not even close to the kinds of conclusions we want."

To help students feel engaged in their courses and subject matters, students need interpersonal interaction and support, according to Shanna Smith Jaggars, the assistant director of Columbia University's Community College Research Center. It is recommended that instructors help improve student engagement through delivering comments on assignments via audio recordings or video updates. Praise for work is also a great motivator to give students support and feedback during their learning.

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