Introduction to MOOCs

Introduction

A MOOC is a Massive Open Online Course facilitated wholly online and designed to support an unlimited number of enrolments.

Massive - because they attract a large number of participants often in the thousands

Open - because it takes place in an area that is open for anyone to read, reflect and comment upon; it is free and the content and work done in the course is shared between all people taking the course.

Online -  because the course takes place online.

Course - because it has facilitators and course materials, a start and an end date, and participants.  It's an event around a topic that people care about.

The term MOOCs was originally coined by Dave Cormier of the University of Prince Edward Island in 2008 for a large online class taught by George Seimens of Athabasca University and Stephen Downes of Canada's National Research Council Canada.

There are now several leading platforms that host the majority of MOOCs namely Coursera, Udacity & EdX (FutureLearn in the UK). However a course does not need to be hosted on one of these platforms to be considered a MOOC.

Features of MOOCs

Most MOOCs share these qualities:

  1. Course participants are likely to distributed all over the world.
  2. Course content is not located in any one place, but found all over the web.
  3. The online classroom is one of many hubs where interaction occurs, which can also include personal blogs or portfolios, websites, social networking sites, and more.
  4. Participants and instructors aggregate, remix and repurpose the content during the course.
  5. The courses do not have specific requirements, but participants are required to stay up to date with rough schedules.
  6. Most MOOCs are free; there may be a fee if the participant is working toward a form of accreditation.

Benefits of MOOCs to participants

  1. MOOCs are free! 
  2. Allow access to education and expertise that you otherwise might not have access to.
  3. Opportunity to connect, collaborate and learn with peers and colleagues internationally.
  4. Create connections and networks that you can maintain once the course ends.
  5. Learn digital skills.
  6. Contribution to your lifelong learning (continuing education and professional development)

Benefits to organisations running the MOOC

  1. Develops knowledge, skills and a community globally around a topic.
  2. Promotes your activities, courses, products, services and expertise.
  3. Internal training for your own staff and students.
  4. Training the public for potential future recruitment.
  5. Gain access to people interested in a topic for surveys, recruitment etc.
  6. Satisfies corporate social responsibility requirements.

Business models associated with MOOCs

As noted in the previous section, the main benefits of running a MOOC are often not financial. However this has not discouraged organisations seeking to build more conventional business models around MOOC delivery. The universal feature of MOOCs is that access to the educational experience is free for students, so educational institutions and MOOC platform providers are seeking a variety of alternativeways to generate incomes from offering MOOCs. Approaches being explored include:

  1. Optional student fees for assessment and certification
  2. Optional student fees for access to additional support
  3. Charges to develop, host and deliver the MOOC
  4. Sale of student data (e.g. to potential recruiting organisations)

Various MOOC Types

xMOOC - The most common type of MOOC, organised around a central professor and core curriculum of predefined learning materials.

cMOOC - "Connectivity" MOOCs resemble graduate seminar courses; course materials provide a starting point for student discussions with the core of the learning coming from student-to-student interactions.

DOCC - Distributed Online Collaborative Courses are courses in which the same course material is distributed to students at multiple institutions, but the exact administrations of the material can vary.  Students can also engage with each other across institutions via the online component.

BOOC - Big Open Online Courses are similar to MOOCs but limited to a smaller number of students; typically 50.

SMOC - Synchronous Massive Online Courses differ from xMOOCs in that the lectures are broadcast live requiring students to log in at specific times in order to hear the lectures.

SPOC - Small Private Online Courses are similar to BOOCs, in that the class sizes are limited, but the students teacher interactions are more closely modelled after traditional classroom interactions.  SPOCs are similarly referenced in the "flipped classroom" model.

Corporate MOOCs - MOOC courses designed for employee training or continuing education typically subsidised or uniquely accredited by employers.

Summary

MOOCs are a type of online course that are in their early stages of maturity and are likely to continue developing in the future. They will probably form a permanent part of the education landscape but they seem unlikely to significantly disrupt many aspects of conventional higher education.

Perhaps the greatest value of MOOCs in the future will be for providing a means for tackling large global problems through community action.[1]

Resources

References

  1. Bates, A. W., Teaching in a digital age, (http://opentextbc.ca/teachinginadigitalage/part/chapter-7-moocs/ accessed Jan 2015)