|Photo courtesy of StoryGuru - Yang-May Ooi in Flickr|
Exams are part of the formative evaluation in the learning process to help learners build and verify the mastery of certain skills. Demonstration of a competence, however, can only happen in authentic situations where the learner gives evidence of the skills that have been developed.
From the connectivist perspective, MOOCs were imagined to create learning communities: bring together people interested in the same topic to exchange ideas and resources, get to know each other, catch up with recent literature, connect nodes, create networks, and depending on the cohesion and confidence that could emerge, even start projects together. When certification is associated with MOOCs, deeper assessment systems need to be taken into account that involve collecting evidence from authentic contexts, plus something that to me is very important: carefully following the thinking process of the learner via conversations and personal recordings in journals and similar tools. Metacognitive exercises with the close guidance of the facilitator is what generates new connections of schemas and attitude transformation.
I tend to think that part of the failure in formative models is due to the idea of reaching scalability. I do not think that education can happen massively. What we can do is disseminate ideas and information massively. To me, MOOCs are tremendously important to support global development: they give the opportunity to learn to anyone interested in it. For professionals with limited resources, this opportunity is immensely valuable. The diploma that participants get at the end of a MOOC is a nice reward for completing assignments; however, the true value of participating in a MOOC for someone whose genuine goal is to learn relies in everything that was gained in terms of new ideas generated through illuminating readings and videos, contacts with people who have common interests, practical learning through the experience of peers, synergy between personal skills and those of others, etc. A formal certification of the learning that was achieved in a MOOC needs the close assessment of a teacher who analizes the publications of the learner, helps the learner correct schemas when necessary and carefully reviews the evidence of the learning that is happening.
I believe teachers may be substituted in many moments of the learning process; however, there are still critical moments when teachers will always be irreplaceable.