An increasing number of universities and private companies are now offering free online college classes, many of which focus on computer science education. Technological advancements have enabled millions of students worldwide to participate in these free classes. This research paper will briefly describe the history of the Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), investigate the pros and cons of MOOCs as they relate to computer education and examine the potential ethical issues surrounding MOOCs.
Free technical training and coursework, specifically MOOCs, provides the opportunity to bridge the higher educational divide and increase the technology skilled labor force but raise serious ethical concerns regarding intellectual property ownership and the privacy of personal information.
The cost of a college education in the United States has increased 538% since 1985 (Jamrisko & Kolet, 2013). In the wake of the most recent recession, universities have seen their endowments shrink, public funding for state universities has decreased, the job market has diminshed and consequently, graduates are having a difficult time repaying their student loans (Yardi, 2012). As a result, there is a demand for more affordable higher education pathways. The creation of free, online college courses has provided a possible solution in the quest for an alternative to the traditional, expensive higher education path. The goal of free higher education for all is a lofty but admirable one. As the number of MOOC providers and course options increase, it is important to examine and critique the methods used to achieve this goal.
Review of the Literature
History of MOOCs
Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are online, tuition free courses that are open to a very large number of students (Yardi, 2012). Online education is not a new concept. According to Cooper & Sahami (2013), colleges began offering live streaming of lectures within specific courses in the 1990’s. The difference between the traditional online education and a MOOC, according to Cooper and Sahami, is that in the traditional online classes, students paid tuition, received as much support and interaction with the instructor as on campus students and earned college credits toward a degree. In 2008, the Stanford Engineering Everywhere organization for Stanford University decided to make several computer science and engineering classes available online, including videos of lectures, materials and software (Cooper & Sahami, 2013). As a result of making this publically available, other universities used the lectures and materials as part of their curriculum and high school students with no computer classes available were able to learn the material and pass the AP Computer Science exam (Cooper & Sahami, 2013).
The release of Stanford’s computing and engineering classes led to the development of the MOOC format. Jon Baggaley (2013) describes the three dominant MOOC providers: Udacity, founded...