THE POTENTIAL OF MASSIVE OPEN ONLINE COURSES (MOOCS) FOR REVIVAL OF DISTANCE EDUCATION IN RUSSIA
The need for the study has been caused by the ongoing search for new and potentially effective means of quality education at university level. The rapid growth in telecommunications, availability of the broadband Internet and ubiquitous access to a variety of quick and user-friendly gadgets and electronics has definitely affected all spheres of our life, including education. The new cohort of university students, known as Generation Z, cause their teachers to entirely alter their concepts, attitudes and methods of teaching so as to meet the requirements of the new digitizing world with its innovative global economy, competitive markets and multicultural diversity. The public request to reform higher education in Russia so as to improve its quality is extremely important in this regard. Appropriate organization of distance education supported by free and open access to massive open online courses (MOOCs) seems to be one of the key answers to most of the emerging challenges.
The purpose of this paper is to analyze whether MOOCs may support different learning needs and styles of Russian students, enrich university curriculum with alternative models of distance education for better learning outcomes, provide educational opportunities even to those not enrolled in formal academic programs, enable learners and teachers to create competitive author's courses, open communities, crowdsourcing platforms and virtual worlds to share ideas, links or materials.
The methodological framework of the study rests on the comparative approach allowing accumulating best teaching strategies and practices of using MOOCs offered by top universities worldwide. A comprehensive analysis and synthesis of technical, pedagogical and managerial issues of MOOCs has also been provided as an integral part of our research. Based on the empirical approach, testing, evaluation and control of usability, accessibility, availability and safety of some MOOC-related tools and resources have been performed. An experimental study has also been conducted in order to obtain and compare certain relevant data concerning attitudes and learning outcomes of students in a traditional versus MOOC-based learning environment, advantages and disadvantages of MOOCs, etc.
The main result of the study is the design of a MOOC-based distance learning model that enhances the quality of university education in general and foreign language training in particular. The data driven analysis proved that MOOCs could be regarded as both sustaining and disruptive technologies determined though equally by innovative educational drivers and start-ups within a student-centered paradigm. As a disruptive technology MOOCs still lacks its complete realization, often has performance problems, seems to be known to a limited group of educators or students and might not yet have a proven practical application in Russia. Conversely, the appropriate use of MOOCs enhances learning opportunities, improves learning outcomes, facilitates networking and collaboration.