MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) are an educational format born in Canada in 2008 that are part of the ODL (Open and/or Distance Learning). They rely on the massive dimension of the Internet, allowing an infinite number of individuals to be trained for free and autonomously.
Four reasons why MOOCs should be the future of education to me:
- They are Massive
- They are Open
- They are Online
- They are Courses
#1 MOOCs are Massive
The term “massive” refers to an unlimited number of learners, unlike traditional learning programs based on the idea of a classroom with a limited number of places.
The first MOOC in history was launched in 2008 in Canada. Called CCK08 (Connectivism and Connective Knowledge Course), the course was led by Stephen Downes and George Siemens, two learning theorists and founding fathers of connectivism (the theory of learning according to which learning takes place through connections between learners).
The objective of this course was to introduce and apply connectivist methods of learning through collaborative tools and discussion rooms that allow participants to enrich the course themselves. This first experience welcomed more than 2000 participants from all over the world.
In November 2011, Stanford American University in Silicon Valley launched three online courses on artificial intelligence taught by Andrew Ng and Sebastian Thrun. The two professors, both recognized in the field, attracted more than 160,000 students from more than 190 countries for each course.
Then they had the idea to develop the first platforms in the world dedicated to the production and distribution of MOOCs. Sebastian Thrun gave birth to Udacity (platform specialized in computer technology) and Andrew Ng launched Coursera (multidisciplinary platform) in April 2012. Their purpose is to democratize higher education.
#2 MOOCs are Open
The term “open” has many interpretations. First of all, it emphasizes maximum accessibility without any prerequisites such as age, level of education or language. It may refer to free of charge as well or to the absence of spatio-temporal constraints and openness to the whole world.
How to monetize MOOCs?
Since MOOCs are by definition free of charge, various solutions should be considered to monetize them.
In the case of freemium MOOC, MOOC platforms provide free introductory or general courses and offer paid access to further learning.
As with any Internet activity, participants in a MOOC leave behind a considerable amount of personal and behavioral data that may be of interest to companies or headhunters.
As on major social networks today, MOOC platforms can offer companies the opportunity to launch targeted advertising campaigns.
#3 MOOCs are Online
The term “online” is another criteria: all courses take place online, regardless of the device (desktop, smartphone, tablet…).
These courses are therefore accessible to anyone, anywhere on the planet, as soon as there is an Internet or network connection.
Developing countries, for instance, could benefit from it with a simple mobile phone and an Internet subscription. It is now possible to train people who do not have access to education where they are.
The problem will be to make MOOCs relevant in accordance with the geographical area in which the learner is located. In some cases, there may be a need to adapt the program to local culture, regulations and context.
#4 MOOCs are Courses
The term “courses” means pedagogical objectives with a real program and in some cases a certification – paid or not – is at stake. The possibilities offered by MOOCs also challenge the definition of a course as it is designed today and allow new forms of learning to be explored.
Different types of MOOCs
Stephen Downes – eLearning expert in Canada and inventor of cMOOCs – distinguishes two main course formats: xMOOCs and cMOOCs.
xMOOC is the most common and popular type of MOOC, despite a limited freedom of action for participants. It is based on the traditional pedagogical model, which is a model centered on the unilateral transmission of knowledge. The pedagogical objectives, resources, content and evaluation methods are predetermined here. As in traditional face-to-face training, participants in xMOOC follow courses given by a teaching authority and are subjected to assessment exercises (usually quizzes or MCQs) to verify the knowledge acquired in order to obtain a possible certificate of success at the end of the course.
Less widespread than xMOOC, cMOOCs (connectivist MOOCs based on a participatory approach) were nevertheless the very first MOOCs to be created in 2008. CMOOCs are not based on a unilateral and vertical transmission of knowledge but on decentralized learning where the collective intelligence of candidates is promoted. Each participant has control over the learning conditions and the content is generated by the interaction between the participants themselves through social networks, forums or blogs.
Participants’ work on MOOC platforms can be evaluated automatically or by peers.
Automated evaluation is usually in the form of MCQs or fillable text. The advantage of this method of evaluation lies in the immediacy of the result. However, it has the disadvantage of being limited since some types of work cannot be evaluated by robots.
Peer review is based on a social dynamic: when the participant completes an exercise, other participants on the same platform receive a notification asking them to correct and/or score the exercise.