MOOC (Massive Open Online Courses)

From SI410
Revision as of 18:21, 11 February 2021 by Sadhanar (Talk | contribs)

Jump to: navigation, search
MOOCs users utilize many different channels to access information online.

A Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) is an open, freely accessible, and highly participatory online course. In addition to traditional course materials such as filmed lectures, readings, and problem sets, many MOOCs provide interactive user forums to support community interactions among students, professors, and teaching assistants (TAs). [1] The first versions of these courses emerged in 2007 and have been steadily gaining popularity since. When they originated, MOOCs were essentially just college coursework uploaded online, giving students strict assignment deadlines and a final exam in order to successfully complete the course. Now MOOCs have adapted to the large scale and variety of the user base by offering shorter courses with softer deadlines, as long as all work is completed by the end of the course date. A typical MOOC is six to twelve weeks long with weekly or bi-weekly assignment deadlines. Some of the most popular subjects to learn through MOOCs are coding and computer science, data science and data analytics, business and management, languages, biology and life sciences, and engineering. [2]


Five fundamentals [3] for being defined as a massive open online course are:

  • Interactive Learning

Students are encouraged to interact with the different lesson plans and formats the course offers and research has shown that interacting with content is more effective for learning.

  • Self-facing Work

All coursework is self-directed and only the student takes responsibility for their progress and how successful the course was in the end.

  • Instant feedback

Students do not have to wait for professors to grade their assignments due to automatic online grading allowing the student to respond to the feedback right away.

  • Gamification

Gamification techniques like creating online labs and rewarding students after reaching certain learning objectives encourages students to engage with materials.

  • Peer Learning

Through discussion forums and various instant messaging tools, students are encouraged to help each other understand the material better.


Availability of MOOCs increasing between September 2013 through 2016.

2007 – Prior to the term being coined, the first MOOC was created by Mike Feerick, CEO of ALISON (Advance Learning Interactive Systems ONline) which began with seven courses on computer literacy.[4]

2008 – The term “MOOC" was coined during the course "Connectivism and Connective Knowledge" by Dave Cormier, from the University of Prince Edward Island. [5]

2011 – Stanford professors Peter Norvig and Sebastian Thrun created Introduction to Artificial Intelligence, a course that attracted 160,000 students from 190 countries.[6]

2012 – Popularity of MOOCs rapidly increased at this time and The New York Times named 2012 “The Year of the MOOC”. [7]

2016 – Over 58 million registered users of at least one MOOC. [8]

Business Model

All MOOCs courses are “open” which means that you are not paying to participate in the course and the materials are all open-sourced. This model does not generate revenue so some institutions have turned to making the materials close-sourced where students have to pay in order to get access to the material or get credits from a particular institution. Other MOOCs providers make revenue from selling ad space on their site or selling related content. The industry has similar network economics to Amazon, eBay and Google in that “content producers go to where most consumers are, and consumers go to where the most content is.”[9].


Most MOOCs are hosted on pre-existing platforms that are constantly evolving. Top providers include:

  1. edX – 2368 courses offered
  2. Coursera – 1338 courses offered
  3. Udacity – 173 courses offered
  4. FutureLearn – 504 courses offered
  5. Canvas Network – 417 courses offered
  6. Independent – 223 courses offered

Participating Institutions

Many elite universities have taken to participating in online open course platforms. Stanford University, Princeton University, Georgia Institute of Technology, Massachusets Institute of Technology, Harvard University, University of California Berkeley, Dartmouth College are some of the few notable in the United States. Many international schools are also involved in these platforms to cater to the large diverse online learning community. Some international universities include IIT Delhi, Kings College London, University of Southhampton, University of Singapore, and the Seoul Institute of Art. Aside from traditional universities, large technology companies are also participating by offering tailored courses. Some example companies include Google,, Facebook, Nvidia, and Cloudera.


MOOCs provide many unique benefits because of their structure and the five fundamentals of what makes a course a MOOC. One of these benefits is that there are no requirements to join a MOOC so anyone can become a student. MOOCs being freely accessible provides the student with freedom to decide when and where to participate and the courses being self-directed ensures that students can learn at their own pace. MOOCs are also cost-effective alternatives to traditional university courses because there is no tuition, all materials are open, and high academic standards are still met through internal auditing. For educators, MOOCs provide an opportunity to reach a much larger and more diverse audience than they could in a physical space. They also provide students an opportunity to learn from top educators. Overall MOOCs are a more affordable and flexible way to learn a new skill or educate oneself further on a subject. They are a way to connect and collaborate while developing digital skills. [10]

Challenges and criticisms

MOOCs offer students the opportunity to work remotely, in an online environment to offer flexibility and convienence in order to accommodate a greater number of students. Research[11] has shown, however, that blended learning, a combination of face-to-face and online learning, is most effective. Critics may claim that because a MOOC lacks the face-to-face learning, they are not an equivalent replacement for more traditional learning environments.

Ethical Considerations

Free Education

While thousands of students compete to attend University of have access to its resources and top quality professors, the same content is now being made available online through MOOCs. MOOCs offer adults or anyone enrolling in a university-level course the same access to these resources for a few hundred dollars per course [12]. While this does promote the importance of having an education and helps bring it within reach for population with otherwise limited access to a higher education institution, the inimitability of the course content at a fraction of the cost calls into question the necessity in charging high tuition for college students.

Additional issues follow:

  • Policies for data sharing are difficult to create and uphold.
  • Student anonymity can pose a problem for research on the effectiveness of MOOCs courses.
  • Producing a MOOC can be expensive.
  • Companies do not value accredited MOOC education as much as traditional coursework.

Intellectual Property Issues

Many of those that are involved in MOOCs such as course creators, professors, schools, and critics have concerns regarding the intellectual property and ownership rights of course content. In the terms of service, most MOOCs claim ownership of the content that is uploaded on their sites, which have caused many to be alarmed at how MOOCs are trying to control the sharing of scholarly course material. [13] This encroaches on a bigger issue of how teachers and professors to own their content and course curriculum and have the autonomy to publish and share their work where they please. The consequences of this issue have yet to unfold, but there's already evidence that MOOCs are destabilizing the traditional education institutions.


  1. Wikipedia: Massive open online course
  3. TedTalk: Anant Agarwal, "Why massively open online courses (still) matter"
  4. Forbes: Peter High, "Lessons From The CEO Of The First Ever MOOC"
  5. DLSI: What is a MOOC?
  6. Information Today: Brandi Scardilli, "MOOCs: Classes for the Masses"
  7. The New York Times: Laura Pappano, "The Year of the Mooc"]
  8. Class Central: Dhawal Shah, "By The Numbers: MOOCS in 2016"
  9. The Economist: The attack of the MOOCS
  10. BDPA Detroit: MOOCs: Top 10 Sites for Free Education With Elite Universities
  11. U.S. Department of Education: Evaluation of Evidence-Based Practices in Online Learning