MOOCs, Massive Open Online Courses, are steadily being embraced by public and private sector organizations. It is increasingly trending in the field of open distance education. The MOOC concept was conceived in the West, where there is a greater portion of the population that experiments with novel learning solutions and pathways.
The main characteristics of MOOCs include: massiveness, openness and connectivity. MOOCs are inclusive, offering access to huge numbers of people who would have been excluded for reasons such as time, financial hardship or geographical location.
Open-source software is used; if assessments exist they are open, and learners have the option to choose from a range of learning environments. MOOC instructional methods are defined by active interaction and engagement from its students.
Malaysia Education Blueprint 2015-2025
The government has already voiced its support for MOOCs in the Malaysia Education Blueprint 2015-2025. The blueprint acknowledges the contribution of learning technologies towards improving student outcomes and access to higher education.
It calls for a diverse set of educational options and greater emphasis on lifelong learning programs. Specifically, it wants to convert common undergraduate courses into MOOCs and advocates the use of blended learning models for up to 70% of programs.
PutraMOOC changes higher education in Malaysia
In Malaysia, people have more or less followed a fixed route from school education to a university degree. But this is steadily changing, as evidenced by the recent launch of a MOOC by the Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM), the first for a university in the country.
PutraMOOC is open to entire public at no cost. People only need to register online to be enrolled.Each course will last 8 weeks total. Education Minister Dato’ Seri Idris Jusoh, who unveiled the online learning platform, said that his ministry would look at allocating RM500 million for all public universities to offer the MOOC, under the 2016-2020 Eleventh Malaysia Plan.
This launch makes Malaysia the first country in the world to implement the MOOCs initiative for public universities. Second Education Minister, Datuk Seri Idris Jusoh says that this initiative is meant to ensure reduced class time and that online learning is implemented by higher learning institutions (IPTAs).
The Education Ministry predicted that 30 percent of learning in IPTAs will be conducted through MOOCs by the year 2020.
Cost Benefits of MOOCs
Professional development from a third-party provider can be costly and time-consuming. MOOCs are a cost-effective solution for companies and government agencies to train their employees. Already, research institutes under the Malaysian Ministry of Health are encouraging staff to update their skills through MOOCs.
The challenge is encouraging staff to sign up for MOOCs. Incentives are one way of pushing staff to take them up. Subject matter experts facilitate and coordinate the online materials, and there exists an opportunity for students to organise and engage with sub-groups aligned to their interests and goals, thereby enhancing the learning experience and promoting successful learner outcomes.
Though there is optimism about MOOCs and online learning initiatives, a more holistic adoption of this concept will be challenging given the rigidity of our educational format. The government has given education providers the autonomy to take stock of global educational trends, and plan the implementation of non-traditional learning programs like MOOCs. It is up to educators to consider and provide this innovative form of learning for anyone looking to upskill in a flexible way.