About MOOCs

A MOOC – a Massive Open Online Course – is an online course open for an unlimited participation via a web platform. The content is mainly delivered through video lectures and articles and assessment is usually carried out via quizzes and peer assessment. Normally you will not get credits for accomplishing a MOOC but in many cases you will obtain a statement of accomplishment if you have completed the required tasks. A typical MOOC will have around 20 000 participants (not all of which can be considered “active”) but some courses have attracted as many as 100-200 000. The most well-known MOOC providers are Coursera (more than 600 courses from around 100 institutions for higher learning), edX (30 institutions, more than 150 courses) and Udacity (around 40 courses). A newcomer is the Open-University sponsored UK-based platform FutureLearn. The MOOC phenomenon has recieved a lot of attention in media since it first started to turn up on the agenda for many of the larger universities in 2012. Positive aspects of MOOCs often mentioned are:

MOOCs offering the possibility to reach out to parts of the world where higher education is not available for everyone and to offer high quality courses to people who for different reasons can not, do not want to or cannot afford to enroll in a regular university course.

MOOCs being arenas for dynamic discussions within a global and diverse community of learners.

MOOCs as flexible learning environments that challenge the traditional face-to-face education.

The development of MOOCs triggering conversations around e-learning strategies and cross-faculty collaborations.

Critical voices are also heard, for example regarding the MOOC business models, high drop-out rates, whether MOOCs actually reach out to under-privileged learners (many reports show that the typical participant is white, male and has a university degree). Some fear they belong to a “one-size fits all” McDonald’s-like version of higher education posing a threat to traditional universities and good quality education.

Do you want to learn more about MOOCs? Or maybe even register on a MOOC to see what the buzz is all about? Here are some useful links to start with:

Wikipedia on MOOCs

Open University report on innovative pedagogy (incl. MOOCs)

University of London MOOC report 

University of Edinburgh MOOC report

The MOOC research hub


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