What is a MOOC?

15 JUN 2022 By Andrew E
What is a MOOC?

Some students struggle with the idea of committing years of their lives to gain the necessary knowledge and paperwork they need to be able to qualify for a specific job. Many consider the sacrifice worthwhile, to improve their chances of acquiring a well-paying and fruitful future career. However, for others that have restraints, either financially, physically or educationally, and are unable to follow a Bachelor, Master’s or Doctoral degree, Professional Development Courses and MOOCs are a godsend!

Although Professional Development Courses (otherwise known as Professional Short Courses, or just Short Courses) are offered by many universities around the world, MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) are not quite as popular.

One of the main reasons is that MOOCs are simply not known enough to be sought after due to the fact that they have not existed for very long. MOOCs only came into the picture in 2008. Following it, in 2011, a few more educational videos were developed by professors from Stanford University and released through open online platforms supported by free web resources.

This was the year that MOOCs exploded around the world; the number of them still extends each day increasingly. Later, they established Coursera as an independent for-profit technology in early 2012. In the same year, other independent non-profit initiatives such as Udacity (set up by Sebastian Thrum) and Udemy were established. Following it, MIT and Harvard incorporated their MITx platform into EdX. The other platforms – Futurelearn and Iversity – followed suit, however, these are European, not US platforms.

What’s the difference between a MOOC and a Short Course?

There are three fundamental characteristics of MOOCs that make them stand apart from short courses:

1) They are Open

Participation in a MOOC is free and open to anyone who has access to the Internet. One might take more than one course and all the content is open to course takers. The work that is generated through the course (both by the facilitators and learners) is shared and available publicly. Finally, there is openness in terms of the learner’s role. Cormier and Siemens (2010) in their article explain openness with “When learners step through our open door, they are invited to enter our place of work, to join the research, to join the discussion, and to contribute in the growth of knowledge within a certain field.

2) They are Participatory

The learning in a MOOC is enhanced by participation both in the creation and sharing of personal contributions and in the interactions with the contributions of others but the participation is voluntary.

3) The knowledge can be Distributed

MOOC is based on a connectivist approach; therefore, any knowledge should be distributed across a network of participants. Most of the course activity takes place in social learning environments, where participants interact with the material (and each others’ interpretations of it). The course readings, and other learning materials available act as starting points for discussion and further thinking.

How are they set up to deliver the best education experience?

Basically, MOOCs courses based on eight areas of student engagement (Grainger, 2013):

  1. Video lectures: Video lectures in MOOCs have various presentation styles, from talking heads to lecturing instructors. Subtitles (primarily English, but other languages are being introduced) are provided by Coursera. The running time for the lecture videos is usually 5-10 minutes each with in-video quizzes embedded
  2. Assessment: Assignments are primarily evaluated through the use of: (a) auto -graded multiple-choice questions or auto -graded programming assignments; (b) peer review assessment where students themselves evaluate and grade assignments based on a defined rubric set.
  3. Forums: Forums are where students post questions and other students reply, and are the main method of student interaction between course takers and instructors. Forums usually consist of general discussion, subject-specific discussion, course feedback, and technical feedback threads.
  4. Readings: Most MOOCs do not require students to buy books, and most readings are available online or provided by course instructors; however, Coursera makes money through an affiliate program with Amazon.com.
There’s more?
  1. Live video sessions: In addition to the weekly lectures, there are live video sessions with the course instructor.
  2. Activities: A range of instructional activities are offered, with the aim of allowing students to further test their understanding of the course concepts.
  3. Additional video resources: These were scripted videos to help comprehension of scenes.
  4. Social media: Students are encouraged to continue their discussions on dedicated pages on other social media platforms

To conclude, MOOCs have established themselves as one of the most prominent trends in higher education in recent years. They represent open access, global, free, video-based instructional content. Over time, MOOCs have gathered scholars and learners from around the world. Also, MOOCs have turned into one of the latest trends in distance education and seem to have remained so for some time, which may indicate that significant research should be conducted on them in the years to come, in order to increase their reach and their availability in areas that they may be lacking in.

If you are interested in taking a short course, look no further than Unicaf! With over 300 courses to choose from, you are guaranteed to find a course that fits your liking!