This is the "What is a MOOC?" page of the "MOOCs "Massively Open Online Courses"" guide.
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MOOCs "Massively Open Online Courses"   Tags: distance_education, mooc  

Learn more about MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses).
Last Updated: Apr 14, 2014 URL: Print Guide RSS UpdatesEmail Alerts

What is a MOOC? Print Page

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What are MOOCs?

A massive open online course (MOOC) is an online course aimed at large-scale interactive participation and open access via the web. In addition to traditional course materials such as videos, readings, and problem sets, MOOCs provide interactive user forums that help build a community for the students, professors, and teaching assistants (TAs). MOOCs are a recent development in distance education.

Although early MOOCs often emphasized open access features, such as open licensing of content, open structure and learning goals, and connectivism, to promote the reuse and remixing of resources, some notable newer MOOCs use closed licenses for their course materials, while maintaining free access for students.

Three types of activities are usually conducted online in a MOOC: direct presentation of information, such as a lecture or video; interactive exploration of the material, such as discussion boards, and assessment, such as exams and quizzes. Assessment can be the most difficult activity to conduct online, and the online version might appear to be quite different from the bricks-and-mortar version. Special attention has been devoted to proctoring and the problem of cheating.

The two most common methods of MOOC assessment are machine-graded multiple-choice quizzes or tests and peer-reviewed written assignments.  Machine grading of written assignments is also being developed. 

In 2013, the Chronicle of Higher Education surveyed 103 professors who had taught MOOCs. "Typically a professor spent over 100 hours on his MOOC before it even started, by recording online lecture videos and doing other preparation," though some instructors' pre-class preparation was "a few dozen hours." The professors then spent 8–10 hours per week on the course, including participation in discussion forums, where they posted once or twice a week.

The medians were: 33,000 students enrolled in a class; 2,600 receiving a passing grade; and 1 teaching assistant helping with the class. 74% of the classes used automated grading, and 34% used peer grading. 97% of the instructors used original videos in the course, 75% used open educational resources, and 27% used other resources. 9% of the classes required the purchase of a physical textbook, and 5% required the purchase of an e-book.

In May 2013 Coursera announced that it would be offering the free use of e-textbooks for some courses in partnership with Chegg, an online textbook-rental company. Students would need to use Chegg's e-reader which limits copying and printing and could only use a textbook while enrolled in the class.

The MOOC Guide lists 12 benefits of a MOOC:

  1. You can organize a MOOC in any setting that has connectivity (which can include the Web, but also local connections via Wi-Fi e.g.)
  2. You can organize it in any language you like (taking into account the main language of your target audience)
  3. You can use any online tools that are relevant to your target region or that are already being used by the participants
  4. You can move beyond time zones and physical boundaries
  5. It can be organized as quickly as you can inform the participants (which makes it a powerful format for priority learning in e.g. aid relief)
  6. Contextualized content can be shared by all
  7. Learning happens in a more informal setting
  8. Learning can also happen incidentally thanks to the unknown knowledge that pops up as the course participants start to exchange notes on the course’s study
  9. You can connect across disciplines and corporate/institutional walls
  10. You don’t need a degree to follow the course, only the willingness to learn (at high speed)
  11. You add to your own personal learning environment and/or network by participating in a MOOC
  12. You will improve your lifelong learning skills, for participating in a MOOC forces you to think about your own learning and knowledge absorption

(Thanks to Wikipedia for that succint explanation, click to go to the Wikipedia page on MOOCs. They've got a great quick history of how this style of learning/teaching came to be.)

Dave Cormier, manager of web communications and innovations at the University of Prince Edward Island, has written a very helpful video explaining MOOCs.

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Micki McIntyre, MS, MA
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You can find me at the RowanSOM Library in Stratford. Email is best, or call me at 856-566-6936.
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