Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs)

While the earliest Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) were developed in the mid-2000s, they really came into their own in about 2010. Pappano (2012) called 2012 the “Year of the MOOC”, but already may have been a little behind the curve. These courses are often offered by or in conjunction with large, prestigious universities or consortia, and typically enrol tens of thousands of students. Most are offered free, with a small fee option for a “verified certificate”. These certificates can sometimes be applied towards course credit at participating universities. MOOCs are able to work on the scale they do by automating the learning process. Most use lecture videos, combining video of instructors with voice-over-slides or voice-over-written notes, and use computer-marked quizzes and assignments as the primary forms of assessment. The largest organisations offering MOOCs include Udacity, Coursera, and EdX, but there are more start-ups and a number of universities either offering courses through those platforms or are creating their own. McAuley et al. (2010) describe “The MOOC Model for Digital Practice”, outlining the features of this mode of learning.

Many university administrators are very enthusiastic about developing and offering MOOCs, but typically only 10-15 % of the students who enrol complete the MOOC (Jordan, 2013; Rivard, 2013), and the more students who enrol in a MOOC, the lower the completion rate.

Belleflamme and Jacqmin (2014) explored four models for monetising the public good of MOOCs through private provision, but White (2014) asks “Is “MOOC-Mania” over?” and notes that operators have so far failed to effectively monetise these platforms. The future of MOOCs remains unclear—they are likely to continue in some form and offer participation in lifelong learning for many members of the community who may not otherwise have these opportunities, but they are unlikely to supplant more traditional models of higher education.

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