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Learning by MOOC or by crook

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Massive open online courses are a new way of learning and offer potential in the health field

For those who have not been keeping up with recent developments in education, MOOCs, or “massive open online courses”, are the latest potential benefit — or threat — to higher education, depending on your point of view.1 The idea is that someone puts their course of lectures online for free and thousands of people access and learn from them. There had been some early courses placed online and open to all, but the term “massive” came into its own when two Stanford University lecturers put a course online and 160 000 people enrolled. Education by the world’s best can be made available to all, although most courses do not yet offer university credits. Students can join discussion forums with the tutor and with other students. Individualised feedback to students is limited by class size, although social networks evolve between students. This type of education has advanced rapidly, and companies have been established to develop or, alternatively, exploit, this trend — again depending on your point of view. As might be imagined, this has caused some universities to fear that they may be replaced by the advance of the MOOC, and, probably as insurance, many Australian universities are now…