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?

  • I think the caravan has moved on to more specific issues such as learning analytics, badges, nanodegrees, etc. - jochen.robes jochen.robes Oct 20, 2014 ...which seems to be supported by the fact that up to now there are no further comments on this page. But then, there´s still the weekend ahead of us of course ;-) - helga helga Oct 24, 2014 Actually, it's not that the caravan has moved on; not quite sure how it happened, but we appear to have two MOOC pages going on the 2015 Horizon Report Wiki--this one, that only you and I have stumbled upon by clicking on the list of topics in the right-hand column of the wiki site, and the much more active one where the discussion is actually continuing (accessible from the "Board Work: RQ1: Discuss Topic Tab that leads to another list of links to topics: http://horizon.wiki.nmc.org/Massively+Open+Online+Courses.- paul.signorelli paul.signorelli Oct 27, 2014
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(2) What themes are missing from the above description that you think are important?

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(3) What do you see as the potential impact of this technology on higher education?

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

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