Why should we pay tuition to take a free course?

Over the past month I’ve explained the definition of a MOOC to most of my close family members and friends. Granted, I had never heard of MOOCs before coming to Southampton, so I can’t fault them for lack of knowledge. However, it turns out these massive open online courses are becoming more well known. They allow students to format education around their schedule from any location, as well as connect with others from around the world. And the best part? The courses are free and only require an Internet connection to enrol. What’s not to love?

However, I believe the question to ask here is not, “are MOOCs good or bad?” but rather, “are MOOCs better?” I know this is not a valid question for many people. For some, MOOCs may be the only viable option due to time, money or location, and for those people, I say MOOCs all the way! I ask this because as part of one of our modules we were asked to forgo six hours of live lectures over the course of the MOOC to allow time for our participation in the Future Learn course.

Screen Shot 2015-11-14 at 6.52.32 p.m.Personally, my initial thought was, why are we paying tuition to take a module in which partial assessment is based on our participation in a free course? I was so focused on this point that I failed to see the value of the MOOC as a whole. Yes, my coursemates and I were (mandatorily) helping facilitate discussion in the MOOC, but we were also interacting with thousands of students and professionals of all ages and cultures. In my experience, diversity of thought leads to growth and there was certainly no lack of diversity to be seen in the MOOC.

Through commenting on the course, we’ve been learning which type of questions get responses, how to start discussions, and essentially how to reach and interact with people. All of these skills will be essential to our success as marketers.

However, the one aspect of the MOOC that I still have issue with is the read through portions, as I do not consider these an equal trade for a live lecture. I relate this to the fact that I’m a largely auditory learner. As such, live lectures and videos are easier for me to analyse. Additionally, I find lectures significantly more interesting because of the opportunity for real time discussion and reaction. Feeling the tension during a live debate or even hearing your coursemates laugh cannot be replaced by a words on a screen. For me, those experiences help internalise the subject matter more than reading about it alone.

So all-in-all, was the MOOC a fair trade for the live lectures? Now that we’re nearing the end of the course, I’ll admit yes, although I would not have been opposed to having both the lectures and the MOOC (more is more?).

To my fellow coursemates; did any of you have qualms with the MOOC initially as well, or were you on board from the beginning?