Monday, 29 April 2013

What makes a MOOC?

Since the New York time article labelling 2012 as the year of the MOOC, there has been a bit of a ‘MOOC bubble’ lately with a very loose labeling of open courseware , youtube videos or even TED talks as MOOCs. As Massive Open Online Courses become increasingly popular, the MOOC acronym is being used for anything remotely associated with education on the web.

Let’s break down the acronym:

  • Massive:

Far from being a byproduct of the MOOCs’ success, scale is required for two reasons:
- The investments (time, resources, money) for launching a MOOC only make sense if a high number of students are going to participate;
- Meaningful student interactions via a dynamic forum, student-led video conferences and physical meetups require a minimum sizeable student body.

  • Open:

Anybody with internet access should be able to join with no restriction of any kind.
It is up to the participants to ensure they have the skills and knowledge required to successfully complete the course.
Open access will also ensure a diverse student body (age, country, profession, educational background, etc.), making student interaction all the more valuable.

  • Online:

Even though MOOC students have found useful to organise offline meetups and even though online courses material can be used by brick and mortar institution as part of their curriculum, a MOOC should be entirely online (teachings, exams, student-professor interactions, etc.).

  • Course:

A MOOC is a course first. It has to be structured like a course, with specific learning objectives, online classes (as opposed to what has been coined ‘xMOOC’ where the course content is actually produced by the participants), homework to practice what has been covered in class and exams to assess the learning.

By definition, a MOOC isn’t a set of tweets, a ‘serious game’ or even a free language learning web app like Duolingo.

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