What are Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs)?

When Stephen Downes and George Siemens coined the term in 2008, massive open online courses (MOOCs) were conceptualized as the next evolution of networked learning. The essence of the original MOOC concept was a web course that people could take from anywhere across the world, with potentially thousands of participants. The basis of this concept was an expansive and diverse set of content, contributed by a variety of experts, educators, and instructors in a specific field, and aggregated into a central repository, such as a web site. What made this content set especially unique was that it could be “remixed” — the materials were not necessarily designed to go together but became associated with each other through the MOOC. A key component of the original vision was that all course materials and the course itself were open source and free — with the door left open for a fee if a participant taking the course wanted university credit to be transcripted for the work. Since those early days, interest in MOOCs has evolved at an unprecedented pace, fueled by the attention given to high profile entrants like Coursera, Udacity, and edX in the popular press. In these new examples, "open" does not necessarily refer to open content or even open access, but only equates to "no charge." Ultimately, many challenges remain to be resolved in supporting learning at scale. The most compelling aspect of the proliferation of MOOCs is that it is helping frame important discussions about online learning that simply could not have taken place before the advent of actual experiments.

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

  • As with the BYOD discussion, the idea of MOOCs is more about democratisation of learning than it is about the MOOC itself. BUT what are the completion rates and are they actually good pedagogy? - lkelly lkelly Oct 23, 2014
  • For the most part, the completion rates for many MOOCs are pretty dismal, and I think that there are many reasons for this. But I am not ready to give on them yet. I think that it is possible to identify and modify some of these reasons. For example, many the pedagogy of many MOOCs is still based on the "sage-on-the-stage", as well as the need for control of the content/process by the instructor and/or institution. Additionally, it is pretty difficult for an instructor to manage such huge amounts of students who enroll or or audit a class. I think that these ideas do not address several fundamental strengths of the technology and platform: MOOCs are better suited for "Guide-on-the-side" as well as creating communities of learners (Lave and Wenger); Shimon Shocken spoke about the effectiveness of self-organizing groups in his TED talk (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iE7YRHxwoDs)- david david Nov 8, 2014David

(2) What themes are missing from the above description that you think are important?

  • Is Google doing anything in this space?? - lkelly lkelly Oct 23, 2014
  • Agile design methods can be applied to using MOOCs in informal education because they both need to be flexible and adapt to the needs and desires of the students. - david david Nov 8, 2014 david

(3) What do you see as the potential impact of this technology on education and interpretation in museums?

  • The folks who run the MOOCs need to be more open in the museums they have as providers - at this stage it's very limited and if you're not from one of the big guns they wont even answer your emails! - lkelly lkelly Oct 23, 2014
  • MOOCs have great potential as a method of delivering online learning opportunities to an interested audience whether in art history, history, the sciences, or more skill based elements like how to look at a work of art or in MoMA's case (see below) teaching and learning strategies. I agree with lkelly though, because there are only a few key players in this arena, this becomes a difficult field to break into.- mcollerd mcollerd Oct 29, 2014
  • MOOCs can be very effective in informal learning environments (free-choice learning); they are effective platforms for collaborative learning and can be used for innovative and accessible platforms to create user generated exhibitions. I think that they need to be continued to be explored by museums and other arts institutions. - david david Nov 8, 2014David

(4) Do you have or know of a project working in this area?

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