Everything You Wanted to Know About MOOCs And Were Too Embarrassed to Ask!

MOOCs have been the talk of the learning and development industry for quite some time. But, what exactly are they?

MOOCs Defined

Massive Open Online Courses, or MOOCs, are online courses that allow participants free access and unrestricted participation to any course of their choice. Besides the conventional modes of teaching such as lectures, videos and reading material; MOOCs also provide a platform for interactive forums.

MOOCs are further divided into two categories – cMOOCs and xMOOCs.

  • cMOOCs are MOOCs that allow for dynamic development of study material. That is, instead of having a pre-planned set of reading materials and courseware, the material will be developed through online discussions and collaborations among learners taking the course across the globe.
  • xMOOCs, on the other hand, believe in the conventional approach where the courses are well-structured with pre-selected reading and reference materials.

A Brief History

MOOCs were first started in 2008, created by George Siemens and Stephen Downs, and was called “Connectivism and Connective Knowledge/2008” or CCK08. It was created as a credit course for the University of Manitoba. CCK08 had 25 students who had paid fees for the course and around 2200 learners who took the course for free.

MOOCs really took off in 2012, when Professors Sebastian Thrun and Peter Norvig of Stanford University offered the online course called “Introduction to Artificial Intelligence”. This course had approximately 1,600,000 students participating from 190 countries. After the success of Intro to Artificial Intelligence, Thrun and Nrovig started Udacity, a business model for online knowledge sharing. There are also a few other MOOCs providers, include Coursera and EdX.

The Advantages of MOOCs:

1. Courses are offered for free
2. Access to courses offered by professors at the top schools
3. Courses are available to a vast and diverse audience across the globe
4. Learners’ performance can be monitored easily using the data captured during the start of courses
5. Both professors and learners get world-wide exposure, thus improving pedagogical techniques and knowledge sharing
6. Can be used as a tool in a blended learning program, where students can access more information than what is provided in the class

The Disadvantages of MOOCs:

1. Can’t provide for personalized courseware and attention from a tutor
2. It is difficult to keep track of students’ assignments and involvement
3. Learners with disabilities and a poor Internet connection can’t use MOOCs
4. Language can be a barrier while offering MOOCs
5. MOOCs can’t be used as a credit-earning course at universities

Though there are a few drawbacks, MOOCs have a lot of potential for reinventing the way we learn. It will be interesting to see how they progress and grow over time!

Further Reading:


Manisha Srikanth

Manisha Srikanth

About the author: Manisha Srikanth is an Instructional Designer with six years of experience. She loves singing, reading fiction, word games, jigsaw puzzles, and traveling.


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