What are Massively Open Online Courses?

Coined in 2008 by Stephen Downes and George Siemens, massively open online courses (MOOC) are conceptualized as the evolution of networked learning. MOOCs have not yet achieved their envisioned potential, but early experiments are promising. The essence of a MOOC is that it is a web courses that people can take from anywhere across the world, with potentially thousands of participants. The basis of each MOOC is an expansive and diverse set of content, contributed by a variety of experts, educators, and instructors in a specific field, and then aggregated into a central repository, such as web site. What makes this content set especially unique is that it is “remixed” -- the materials are not necessarily designed to go together but become associated with each other through the MOOC. A key component of the original vision is that all course materials and the course itself are open source and free -- with the door left open for a fee if a participant taking the course wishes university credit be transcripted for the work. A second key element is that the structure of MOOCs be minimalist, so as to allow participants to design their own learning path based upon whatever specific knowledge or skill they want to gain. The point is that participants can control how, where, and when they learn. Typically, the only defined elements of MOOCs are assignments in the form of presentations or discourse incited by discussion questions, where thousands of participants exchange ideas and responses in an online forum.

INSTRUCTIONS: Enter your responses to the questions below. This is most easily done by moving your cursor to the end of the last item and pressing RETURN to create a new bullet point. Please include URLs whenever you can (full URLs will automatically be turned into hyperlinks; please type them out rather than using the linking tools in the toolbar).

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(1) How might this technology be relevant to the educational sector you know best?

  • This could be most useful for adult learning. More often than not, the adult learning sector tends to provide degree & higher courses that are still too aligned to traditional university programmes. Having MOOC content & assement practices that can be constructed with relevance in mind would be useful for someone changing careers or just being very interested in specific areas. For instance an industry can co-construct such content with academics so that on-the-job materials can be integrated with theoretical understanding. - horncheah horncheah Feb 29, 2012
  • MOOCs could also be used in high school as students identify what they are most interested in learning. The idea that they can customize the course for their needs is a radical shift to K-12 thinking and would be very exciting- holly.jobe holly.jobe Mar 3, 2012
  • In the K12 area I am a part of we don’t see a move toward involving MOOCs. The individual students are personalizing their learning by using resources like Khan Academy and similar. - claus.gregersen claus.gregersen Mar 4, 2012
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(2) What themes are missing from the above description that you think are important?

(3) What do you see as the potential impact of this technology on teaching, learning, or creative expression?

  • MOOS have the potential to mass customize learning.- holly.jobe holly.jobe Mar 3, 2012
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(4) Do you have or know of a project working in this area?

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Please share information about related projects in our Horizon K-12 Project form.