What are Massive Open Online Courses?


Coined in 2008 by Stephen Downes and George Siemens, massively open online courses (MOOC) are conceptualized as the evolution of networked learning. MOOCs have not yet achieved their envisioned potential, but early experiments are promising. The essence of a MOOC is that it is a web courses that people can take from anywhere across the world, with potentially thousands of participants. The basis of each MOOC is an expansive and diverse set of content, contributed by a variety of experts, educators, and instructors in a specific field, and then aggregated into a central repository, such as web site. What makes this content set especially unique is that it is “remixed” -- the materials are not necessarily designed to go together but become associated with each other through the MOOC. A key component of the original vision is that all course materials and the course itself are open source and free -- with the door left open for a fee if a participant taking the course wishes university credit be transcripted for the work. A second key element is that the structure of MOOCs be minimalist, so as to allow participants to design their own learning path based upon whatever specific knowledge or skill they want to gain. The point is that participants can control how, where, and when they learn. Typically, the only defined elements of MOOCs are assignments in the form of presentations or discourse incited by discussion questions, where thousands of participants exchange ideas and responses in an online forum.


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Please "sign" your contributions by marking with the code of 4 tildes (~) in a row so that we can follow up with you if we need additional information or leads to examples- this produces a signature when the page is updated, like this: - Larry Larry Feb 8, 2012

(1) How might this technology be relevant to the educational sector you know best?

  • - kevin-johnson kevin-johnson Feb 10, 2015MOOCs are great for teacher PD, but the new High School MOOCs offered by edX already could have a great application in supporting learners. The edX offerings, begun in 2014, are particularly strong in Math and Physics.
  • not exactly MOOC, school for programming and web design http://www.w3schools.com/ is very popular among students
  • I've completed some 38 MOOC's now and I'm very fascinated with their learning/schooling potential. While my own district has started their journey with MOOC's for teacher PD and just now starting to use the courses as supplemental to student curriculum, units, etc...the "on ramp" of AP courses has disruptive potential - good disruption to be sure, but disruption as K12's figure out how best to leverage. Very recently, a potential game changer with MOOC's in K12 is "on boarding" started by Arizona State University and edX, called the Global Freshman Academy (GFA). While the cost is now competing with community colleges but from a state university, the big potential, is that you pay and get the university transcript credit only if you want to and have passed the course. Pay only if you pass and lower costs, all online. That's disruptive all the way around. In our district, we see where this innovation can be leveraged for the rich content and delivery systems, letting K12 to focus on upgrading young people's skill sets in the online world, but with a hybrid model; global participation of differing cultures/languages, digital citizenship, communication, collaboration, etc., all sorely needed globally and very relevant to where the connected world is heading. How progressive and quickly the K12 industry will adapt could impact the speed and fidelity. (- jbillings jbillings May 21, 2015)
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(2) What themes are missing from the above description that you think are important?

  • MOOCs get a bad rap due to their low completion rate, but it's important for researchers and educators to take a fresh look at the relationship between intention and retention. Recent research by Coursera folks published in Educause Review (among other recent published studies) suggests that completion is an inappropriate metric for MOOCs since many enroll just to get a small piece of content. - marcia.mardis marcia.mardis Feb 22, 2015
  • MOOCs act as a container and context for many of the technologies we discuss on the Horizon Report such as OER, flipped classroom, learning analytics - marcia.mardis marcia.mardis Feb 22, 2015

(3) What do you see as the potential impact of this technology on teaching, learning, or creative expression?

  • - kevin-johnson kevin-johnson Feb 10, 2015Will Richardson talks of "learning readiness" and cites MOOCs as an example of how learning online has changed; Richardson calls it an ecological change in teaching. I think even Junior High kids can be exposed to MOOCs, because this may become more and more a path for education. David Price uses the term "heutagogy" (following the path of independent learning where ever it takes you) and he sees it as the best path moving forward. Two thumbs up for the above comments! - marcia.mardis marcia.mardis Feb 22, 2015
  • As validation of Marcia above, Middle School Students and MOOC's, we just completed Boaler's/Stanfords MOOC on "How to Learn Math" with Middle School students. And, using the MOOC model, and their OER content, we delivered R Statisical Programming to Middle School Students. Innovative in the K12 space, and word is getting out - they were both well received by students, teachers and parents and we're expanding the model. (- jbillings jbillings May 21, 2015).
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(4) Do you have or know of a project working in this area?

  • - kevin-johnson kevin-johnson Feb 10, 2015EdX has offered (potentially free) High School MOOCs since 2014 https://www.edx.org/high-school-initiative. Coursera (which can be done for free) has over 11 million Coursereans and the number increases by the minute. 80% of the Internet is English; we should harness that capacity!
  • Free and potentially older students can use them https://www.futurelearn.com/
  • President Obama has selected 50 PD MOOC for teachers' professional development http://blog.coursera.org/post/103050170952/president-obama-supports-free-two-year-coursera which should definitely make a significant improvement for teachers ... effecting K12 in a short run. - tszmarta tszmarta Feb 23, 2015
  • In my district, we are rolling out an accelerated high school diploma online using the Arizona legislated "Grand Canyon Diploma". The legislation calls for students to "Move On When Ready", wherein high school students could graduate from high school in as early as two years. Either the Cambridge or ACT curriculum must be used and there are high-stakes completion tests required for validation. But, if a student finishes early, the high school can still receive partial funding by facilitating the student into college ready or career programs; university enrollment, high-end high school courses like AP, vocational or fine arts, or "on ramping/boarding" to universities/colleges. It is the later where MOOC's are most relevant. For example, note the Arizona State University and edX program called Global Freshman Academy (GFA), discussed above. The GFA provides reduced tuition rates and a pay only if you pass and want the credit business model. Student and parents win, university and K12 win with partial funding if/as student is ready to move on when ready. (- jbillings jbillings May 21, 2015)
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