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MOOCs "Massively Open Online Courses"   Tags: distance_education, mooc  

Learn more about MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses).
Last Updated: Aug 19, 2014 URL: Print Guide RSS UpdatesEmail Alerts

What is a MOOC? Print Page

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What are MOOCs?

Massive Online Open Course (MOOC) is an interesting new approach that uses the power of the Internet to make courses available to hundreds of thousands of individuals. This concept recently became operational as an attempt on the part of a number of high ranking universities in the United States (including Harvard, Yale, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Stanford) to provide high quality courses freely to all who have access to the Internet. The open aspect of MOOCs refers to the use of open-source software, open sources of information, open and evolving curricula, and openness to everyone. Many of the faculty who worked on the first courses were motivated by altruism. Not surprisingly, the concept has been expanded by entrepreneurs who believe that money can be made by charging for the information.

So, what separates MOOCs from long-established online course offerings? MOOCs involve delivery of courses to thousands of students simultaneously — some courses have attracted over 100 000 students. So they are scaled up compared with traditional online courses. But they are more than that. MOOCs are based on considerable research on how students learn and the best MOOCs incorporate pedagogical concepts that differ from those that underpin traditional courses. MOOCs are not presented as static filmed lectures. Typically, presentations are made in short segments (about 10 minutes) that focus on a single concept, each followed by a session in which understanding of the concept is tested by requiring answers to questions or a solution to a problem. The answers or solution provide feedback to the students and the instructor. Subsequently there is a student forum. The latter aspect of MOOCs is based on approaches found in social networking — students communicate with each other, debate ideas, learn from each other, and sometimes mark each other’s papers.

For university administrators, politicians, students, parents — MOOCs suggest the promise of cheaper education. One professor can teach 100 000 students — the economies of scale seem attractive. For university faculty, there are concerns about quality control, copyright and ownership of content, and job security. For entrepreneurs, there is the concern that the business model is not established. Some companies believe that they can make a profit through fees for certification, licensing fees to universities, and recruiting fees to companies anxious to know who the best students are. A small certification fee adds up quickly when there are hundreds of thousands of students.

Read the rest of this excellent article by Carlton Gyles  in the Canadian Veterinary Journal.  

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

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Micki McIntyre, MS, MA
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