The Development of MOOCs

About MOOCs

A MOOC is a Massive Open Online Course. Learners from around the world can sign up and learn professional courses offered through providers and universities for free. There are no credits offered for completing the courses; however, some providers offer self-awarded tokens when completing a module or a course. Recently, institutions are exploring the possibility of granting credits to learners who complete the course, and asking  that students take a proctored exam (see the Colorado State University Global Campus initiative below).  According to the MOOC Guide, a “MOOC” by itself is a non-defined pedagogical format for participation, collaboration and knowledge sharing.

According the Globe and Mail article, George Siemens who is currently affiliated with  Athabasca University and Stephen Downes of the National Research Council decided to open the virtual doors and let anyone join their online paid course for free back in 2008. Through his view on connectivisim, Siemens explains that the online courses are only nodes in the social learning networks. Siemens is currently teaching an open course on “Current/Future State of Higher Education.”

This Video explains MOOCs in few minutes, the video is written and narrated by Dave Cormier and created by Neal Gillis

Current Providers:

  • Udemy : According to Udemy’ website, they have 200,000 students signed up for its free courses. Instructors can use Udemy to build and offer their free online courses. According to the article on the united business media website, while over 90% of Udemy courses are free, instructors are allowed to charge for their courses. Instructors can build their courses using slide presentations, videos, documents, PDFs, articles, photos, links and life conferences with their students (PRNewsWire, 2012).
  •  Coursera: According to the New York Times article, Coursera have registered 680,000 students in 43 courses with its original partners, Michigan, Princeton, Stanford and the University of Pennsylvania. Now they have over 10 partners from universities in the US, Canada and Europe.
  •  edX:  The Harvard and MIT online collaboration site uses edX.  Berkeley University of California and University of Taxes System are partners with edX.
  •  Udacity:  Besides offering the free courses, Udacity offers a range of certification options that are recognized by major technology companies.
  •  Open Yale courses: Free introductory courses taught by Yale professors.
  •  iTunesU: A free App by Apple; Duke University offers its courses through iTunesU

Currently, there are many institutions offering various open online courses in many fields and disciplines.

Current and Future Practices:

Merlot JOLT: To address the lack of research about MOOCs, the Journal of Online Learning and Teaching announced a call for papers for a special issue about MOOCs. The four areas of research are: case studies, learning (instructional) design and pedagogy of MOOCs,  theoretical/conceptual Issues and future directions.

Colorado State University’ s Global Campus: According to the New York Times article, the Colorado State University’ s Global Campus will give three transfer credits to students who complete “Introduction to computer science: Building a search engine” course. This is free course offered through Udacity; however the students are asked to take a proctored test. Udacity announced its arrangement with Pearson VUE earlier this year to allow students to take proctored tests. Only students who take a proctored test at a Pearson VUE center, for a fee of $89, will be eligible for credits at Colorado’s Global Campus. The Global Campus is the first American institution to offer credit for Udacity MOOC, several European universities have already done so. According to the Chronicles in Higher Education the university accepted the transfer of credit after a committee of four faculty members reviewed the course and its methods of assessing student learning.

The New York Times article also explained that edX, the Harvard-M.I.T. online collaboration, announced that students in its MOOCs would be able to take proctored final exams at Pearson VUE’s brick-and-mortar testing centers around the world, where their identity can be verified; a modest fee, not yet announced.

The use of multiple sites to deliver one course: According to New York Times article, a group of online-learning enterprises is collaborating on a new kind of free class, known as a mechanical MOOC . Through this course, the instructor(s) will teach a computer-programming language by putting together existing resources from open-learning sites. The collaborators explained that the content, community and assessment are all available online, but not in one place. The article explained that only one in 10, or fewer, who sign up for MOOCs finish the course, some sign up for courses while casually browsing and others cannot keep up with the hours of work. The creators of the mechanical MOOC are hoping that the new structure can retain more learners and increase the percentage of students who complete the course.


References and further readings:

Bradshaw, J. (2012, October 7). Universities that educate the world, for free. Retrieved from

Lewin, T. (2012, September 6). Colorado State to offer credits for online class. Retrieved from

Lewin, T. (2012, July 7a). Universities reshaping education on the web. Retrieved from

Mangan, K. (2012, September 6). A first for udacity: a u.s. university will accept transfer credit for one of its courses. Retrieved from

PRNewWire (2012, October, 12). Udemy receives $3 million in series a financing led by Lightbank. Retrieved from

This entry was posted in Teaching Online and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to The Development of MOOCs

  1. Jenni Hayman says:

    Thank you for this very informative and current article. I would like to add a couple of references to the mix, great perspectives!
    From Jeremy Knox, Sian Bayne, Hamish MacLeod, Jen Ross and Christine Sinclair
    MSc in E-learning Programme Team – University of Edinburgh
    MOOC Pedagogy, the Challenge of Developing for Coursera
    From George Siemens (and a couple of others, Stephen Downes, Rory McGreal) two very open MOOCs,
    Current/Future State of Higher Education
    and Openness in Education

  2. Dalia Hanna says:

    Thanks Jenni for the additional references.

  3. Christina Halliday says:

    I just took a MOOC in a field quite putside my academic training (PhD Education). In my opinion, it has and will have value as an option for postsec study, but as a learning experience, it does not offer anything close to a live, small-ish class experience.

    In my coursera MOOC, the prof was basically ‘not there’. We watched/read his materials weekly and took quizzes. For working through concepts/course material–we were on our own. On discussion boards students attempted to help other students. Some students, like myself, really struggled due to lack of a context to get good answers to questions.

    There was an unbelievable range of students taking the course–from all over the world, with varied life experiences and ages. This made the experience exciting and unique, but also created some challenges that we had to solve on our own We were talking to each other across great differences and distances. Sometimes there were misunderstandings and we were fumbling about trying to learn together.

    The technology for the course was very easy to use. No problems there.

    Having taken one, I see MOOCS as good for some kinds of disciplinary material (not all), some kinds of learning goals, and particular audiences. It is not a one size fits all–but that is ok.

    I’m looking forward to taking another MOOC in January.

  4. Christina Halliday says:

    May be of interesst:

    Profs making money off of MOOCs? And, campus-based advising/learning as a supplement to MOOCs.

    • Dalia Hanna says:

      Thanks Christina for sharing your experience with the course and for the article from inside higher ed. There are many initiatives around MOOCs; every day now there is something new.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *