Learning Technology

What is a MOOC?

1 January 3rd, 2013 at 09:01

A MOOC is a Massive Open Online Course.  It is designed for large numbers of participants and typically is used for professional development. It allows people to participate as much or as little as they need to achieve their personal learning aims, and to use a variety of online tools. While seed materials (often in the form of Open Educational Resources) are usually provided, much of the content may be produced during the course by the participants themselves.  While not usually taken for credit, by adding assessment to the mix, some of the students taking the module may gain credit. [Clarification: most participants in MOOCs, especially free MOOCs, may gain a certificate or open badge, but only a small proportion of participants - those registered with a University in the usual way - may gain credit.]

While the first MOOCs, run by world leaders in the field, were collaborative learning events attracting sometimes over 100,000 learners, and were emphatically constructivist in nature,  it’s unlikely that that future MOOCs will attract this number. However, the principles of  participatory open courses in which interested participants sit alongside those seeking accreditation have been adapted and used by a number of universities and learning groups, for both internal and external participants. Initiatives such as Coursera and EdX include course designs based on MOOCs.

Currently MOOCs tend to fall into two categories. The first is the cMOOCs, following the constructivist principles of Dave Cormier and George Siemens, using a wide variety of technologies and social media channels, and building on materials and ideas brought by the participants. The second is what have been termed xMOOCs where the emphasis is more on self-study with video and open resources supported by forums (Coursera, EdX, Udacity). The latest UK initiative in this area, FutureLearn, involving the Open University and  11 other UK Universities, has yet to offer any courses.

The last MOOC I took part in was a constructivist Canadian one, so I’ve signed up for a couple of new ones that start in January. There are members of staff at Nottingham interested in running their own MOOCs so watch this space!


The mooc guide  aims to  offer an online history of the development of the Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) and  to use that history to describe major elements of a MOOC and Mooc.ca  site by Stephen Downes and George Siemens, early MOOC pioneers

Massive open online course – Wikipedia

The ideals and reality of particpating in a MOOC (PDF) Mackness, J., Mak, S. and Williams, Roy In: Proceedings of the 7th International Conference on Networked Learning 2010.

The MOOC module for digital practice (PDF) Alexander McAuley, Bonnie Stewart, George Siemens and Dave Cormier 2010

First Steps into Learning & Teaching in Higher Education: 21 May – 22 June ’12 #fslt12 The Open Line mooc – HEA/JISC/Oxford Brookes University Final Report

The Year of the MOOC (New York Times article November 2012): note, wait for advert to finish)

Nice publicity, shame about the pedagogy (THE article, October 2012)  [criticism]

MOOCs – Educational game changer or just another round of buzzword bingo? (ULCC elblog, November 2012)

FutureLearn is UK’s chance to ‘fight back’, says OU vice-chancellor (Guardian, 20 December 2012)

Post a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.

One comment for “ What is a MOOC? ”