By Denise Murray
I CAN hardly open a magazine or newspaper without reading about some new course being offered online. The latest surge has been in MOOCs (massive open online courses). Several for-profit and non-profit companies have emerged to offer these courses across a range of subjects. They collaborate with universities around the world to offer their courses online. Anyone can sign up for the course, but they won’t receive academic credit, only a certificate of participation.
Why do institutions offer online courses? And why do students enroll?
The answers to both questions are complex. Online courses actually have their origins in distance learning (DL), developed to provide education to students who could not travel to a brick-and-mortar institution. DL was first offered as paper-and-pen lessons via mail. It then developed to use taped materials. Next came video. All of these modes of delivery still exist, depending on the resources of a particular country or region.
Institutions offer online programs and students take them because of time and distance constraints. For example, my home state in Australia is huge. When I was college-age, there was only one university in the capital city. I began teaching at a school 1,300 miles (2,092 km) from the capital. But I wanted to continue my bachelor’s degree.