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K-MOOC, a Change in the Paradigm of Higher EducationOnline open courses through K-MOOC now available; Everyone can access to higher education
  • Lee Seo-yeon, Yim Se-youn
  • 승인 2015.09.01 14:09
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   Every single person in Korea is now able to access to higher education. Popular courses from well-known universities will be accessible through online for free through K-MOOC, a service sponsored by the Ministry of Education. Ten universities have been selected for the first trial operation.  The service begins from September, 2015, at the start of the second semester.

   K-MOOC stands for Korean Massive Online Open Courses. It is a website that provides popular courses from acknowledged universities in Korea for free. What makes K-MOOC different from OCW (Open Course Ware), already offered in most universities, is its interactive system. While OCW only provides lectures, K-MOOC courses consist of attendance check, quizzes, exams, commentaries from professors, and certificates. Research Professor Jung Min Ho from the Center of Teaching & Learning of Dongguk University said, “Given that K-MOOC provides certificates, people can officially prove their skills and abilities acquired through these courses in many ways.”

   The Ministry of Education has selected total of 27 lectures, and ten universities out of 47 schools which applied are given 100 million won in monetary support for setting up their trial K-MOOC courses. They are Seoul National University, Kyung Hee University, Korea University, Yonsei University, Sung Kyun Kwan University, Pusan National University, POSTEC, Ehwa Womans University, Hanyang University, etc. Korea University and Ewha Womans University are also considering to acknowledge the courses students take in K-MOOC as school credits.

   Dongguk University had also applied, yet was not selected. The next selection will be in January, 2016, and Dongguk’s preparation is ongoing.


A Donggukian is taking a course in edX, one of the famous MOOC sites in the United States.                                                                    /Photograph  by Yim Se-youn

"History of MOOC and the Future of K-MOOC"

What is MOOC exactly?

   According to Wikipedia, Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) is an online course aimed at unlimited participation and open access via the web. The idea of free courses for unlimited participation started in 2008 from Khan Academy. Salman Khan who established this academy originally started filming videos on Youtube for his nephew who struggled to learn. His biggest concern was to offer a more personalized education, and the videos became popular. Following Khan’s example, the concept of MOOC began to spread in 2011 when a professor from Stanford University who taught an introduction to artificial intelligence course opened three classes online.

   Now there are many MOOC platforms; among these, the Coursera, edX, Udacity, and FutureLearn are the most famous. Firstly, Coursera was co-founded by Stanford University and Princeton University in May 2012. It has total of 714 courses from 240 universities, categorized into 25 fields. It provides a certificate from the university which opened the course for those who complete the course and pass the tests. In 2013, KAIST also participated and opened three courses on Coursera.

   Secondly, edX is also a famous MOOC site. This was co-founded by Harvard University and MIT in April 2012. It has total of 215 courses from 52 universities including UC-Berkeley and Cornell University. Also, students who passed the test can receive a certificate from the university that provided the course. edX has the participation of six universities from Asia among their courses, such as Seoul National University, Beijing University, and Kyoto University, which all  began offering their courses in 2013. In addition, it established a strategic alliance with Google to develop a platform for building future courses.

   Next, Udacity, which was established by Professor Sebastian Thrun from Stanford in 2011. Along with free courses as offered by other MOOC sites, it also provides full courses which need payment; for example, a degree in Nano is $200. Udacity offers courses for 1.6 million people in 200 different countries. Moreover, since this is a specialized degree in computer engineering, students who earn its Nano degree have advantage for applying AT&T.

   Lastly, FutureLearn is the first UK-led MOOC platform, founded by The Open University in December 2012. Unlike others, it includes four non-university partners such as the British Museum, the British Council, the British Library, and the National Film and Television School,  along with 54 UK and international Universities. Last year in April, Yonsei University opened a class of Professor John Delury, called “Lips and Teeth: Korea and China in Modern Times.” This was the first lecture that talked about a relationship between Korea and China, and it drew more than three thousand and six hundred people.


What makes MOOC so useful?

   There are ten characteristics which make MOOC different from any other learning materials: These courses are open, massive,  university-level education, contain short videos, require enrollment, utilize a learning management system, automated testing, crowd-sourced peer assessment, and interactive user forums, and offer certification. Because it is free and has no limitation for which university courses someone can potentially take, MOOC offers a chance to explore higher-education fields. Also, by taking quizzes and tests MOOC helps students know which stage they are at and they do not even need to grade them since this entire process is automated. Especially, it emphasizes a flipped-learning design. This means that through MOOC, students can learn the concepts ahead via online courses, and spend the actual class time as a discussion. In this way, students would gain more time to discuss and debate. In addition, Professor Jung mentioned that MOOC gives motivation to students through its certification and the various interactive systems. He said, “MOOC is self-motivated learning. Unlike many academies in Korea, universities’ online classes are usually boring. Thus, it is tough to finish one course if the student is not motivated. I think certification means a lot here. It gives a goal to finish the course.” Moreover, he added, “I heard in U.S. the students who take same courses often make off-line meetings to discuss. This can also offer motivation to study.”


What are the concerns for the successful adaptation of K-MOOC?

   After the success in U.S., many universities are now  allowing these courses to be considered as credits,  along with a certificate. Some universities, such as Arizona State University and University of Arkansas introduced a system called, “MOOC2Degree‚” in which students can earn credits through MOOC. Additionally, some of the universities are developing models that make profits such as Georgia Institute of Technology opening a course which provides its master degree by students paying $7,000 on MOOC.

   As such, in order to achieve their objectives, MOOC requires a deep understanding the needs of potential students, and concerns regarding the system itself. Considering that the K-MOOC is only in its beginnings, the biggest concern would be its utilization. In Korea, the demand for further education from office workers is very high. For example, online learning website, EBS Lang reached twenty thousand students solely consisting of office workers. Recently, its private education industry expanded by two trillion won. This statistic shows the importance of lifelong study which K-MOOC could possibly offer. Furthermore, K-MOOC can help not only office workers but also job applicants. Through many alliances with companies, MOOC in U.S. plays a role in the market of employment. For instance, one of the biggest online recruitment sites, LinkedIn now allowed applicants to put a completion history of MOOC courses. Aquent, a labor-force-offering company, recruited students who took HTML5 class on MOOC as its system developers as well.  Rather than just following the foot-steps of other MOOC cases, K-MOOC should consider the conditions that Korean society faces to maximize the utilization.

   According to National Institute for Lifelong Education, K-MOOC also brings cost-cutting effects through the opening and sharing of excellent lectures from universities. Some view that for high school students, it can provide a chance to explore their future major, and for university students, it can possibly give a chance to take courses from different colleges for those who could not. However, on the other hand, some point out the issue of standardized education. Like McDonald’s effect of training many people’s tastes, greater use of MOOC could  result in the  offering of mainly standardized education to suite massive numbers of people, which would be  directly opposite from MOOC’s original purpose. Professor Jung predicted, “We did not know about using smartphones and the technology at all when it first came out. But look what we have now. People obtain patents, pass down brilliant technologies, and invent new things that we could not even imagine. I feel the same for K-MOOC. It is all the matter of investing and utilizing.”

Lee Seo-yeon, Yim Se-youn  sullylee0516@dongguk.edu, seyoun8120@dongguk.edu

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