EUGENE, Ore. -- The University of Oregon is developing courses with the capacity to teach thousands through online courses, allowing students to learn from the comfort of their own home.
Essentially these MOOCs, or massive open online courses, close the door of the lecture hall and open a new window on your computer. University spokesman Phil Weiler said the courses are the next step in the evolution of education.
“I think in 20 years, 30 years we'll look back and say ‘wow, the change has been amazing’," Weiler said. ”So the challenge is how do we take the best of an in classroom experience and the best of the ability to use the internet.”
Weiler breaks down the MOOCs acronym as Massive: because one class can teach hundreds of thousands of students. Open: because anyone can join the class at anytime. Online: because the courses are taught through video with no professor contact.
MOOCs are currently free and don't offer college credit, but they've become hugely popular. The Kahn Academy hosts 4,000 course videos on Youtube. Coursera offers up MOOCs through Princeton and Stanford.
When professor Steven Fickas isn't teaching an app making class at the University of Oregon, he's developing tools for a new MOOC there.
“I think its gonna be pretty dang powerful if we can get it to work… these videos are the new text book,” said Fikas.
One of his tools will help students take notes on video, but students have mixed feelings about the online courses.
“I work way better if I have like a teacher to interact with, office hours, that kind of thing,” said UO student Taylor Robinson.
“I don't think we should be just attached to a computer screen, you know even commuting to the classroom is a big part of college life,” said Cael Hanrahan.
The makers of MOOCs agree, saying what's lost is the need for human interaction.
"There may be a need for less faculty members … there MAY be. This may free up faculty to do more research than they're currently able to do," Weiler said.
Fickas says they're brainstorming about test taking with MOOCs. One idea is to have students come to a test taking center for in person tests.