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Rhyon Whittle, Memorial University of Newfoundland

2 Definitions and background

MOOCS is an abbreviation of Massive Open Online Courses (Chen, 2014). Delivered since 2008, MOOCS are online courses that allow for large numbers of students to participate freely (Rodriguez, 2013). George Siemens and Stephen Downs delivered the first MOOC (De Langen & Van Den Bosch, 2014). These online courses are usually led by individuals regarded as experts in the particular field being taught (Fournier, Mak, & Kop, 2011). MOOCS are characterized by accessibility, in that they are open globally and provide access to a free learning opportunity to participants across the world (Esposito, 2012). While the model is free, MOOCS sometimes allow learners the opportunity to pay a fee to have their work recognized through the awarding of credits (Chen, 2014). Usually, the total number of participants numbers over 500 (Koutropoulos et al., 2012). A MOOC participant base consists of a mixed group; those that actively participate and contribute to the learning community exist side by side with learners who are participating in a non-proactive fashion (Esposito, 2012). In principle, a MOOC is intended to encourage its participants to connect and network among themselves, using these networks to support the learning process (Fournier et al., 2011).

3 Affordances

MOOCS allow learners to glean knowledge and encounter learning, even when they are simply lurking in the community of learners (Kop, 2011). There is significant value that is added to a learners experience through the conscious decision to create and share content with other MOOC participants (Kop, 2011). However, lurkers retain the ability to gather information and browse through valuable content (Koutropoulos et al., 2012). In a participant post-MOOC review, it was indicated that even though the participant “lurked” throughout the course, their engagement was “legitimate and peripheral…I was part of the community” (Mackness, Waite, Roberts, & Lovegrove, 2013, p. 147).

MOOCS also allow for course participants to access learning through joining networks and accessing resources created by other knowledgeable participants (Fournier et al., 2011). A MOOC usually involves a worldwide participant base (Portmess, 2013). The impact of this base is seen in research conducted examining the performance of a MOOC titled “First Steps in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education” (FSLT12) at Oxford Brookes University. Participants from 24 countries created course artifacts, reviewing and critiquing each other’s work (Mackness et al., 2013). The expectation that knowledge and resources would be sharpened and shared among the participant group was built into the MOOC design (Mackness et al., 2013). A learner’s success in a MOOC is linked to the networking and sharing that learners participate in (Mackness et al., 2013).

MOOCS also allow for learners who would otherwise be limited in their educational options to access top-tier university level courses (Chen, 2014). Since MOOCS by definition are free, access to learning from well-regarded institutions provides learners an additional option in places where top quality instruction is limited (Chen, 2014). MOOCS provide an open access alternative to learners unable to afford customary learning options (De Langen & Van Den Bosch, 2014).

MOOCS also allow for learners to determine the level to which they choose to engage with the material based on their unique interests and the goals they plan to achieve (Rodriguez, 2012). Research indicates that course completion is not a main concern of participants; MOOCS are typically structured informally, allowing participants to determine their participation levels based on variable factors such as their total available time (Rodriguez, 2013).

4 Constraints

MOOCS do not allow for formal credentialing to be issued in a standardized way, because all participants may not complete the same level of work or participate to the same degree (Rodriguez, 2012). Recognition issued at the end of the course is more designed to show that a learner successfully managed to remain in the course, as opposed to showing that there was demonstrated proficiency or mastery of a concept (Spector, 2014). While some MOOC providers (such as Coursera) offer credit, there are only a limited amount of tertiary institutions that offer full course credit to a learner that completes a MOOC (Chen, 2014).

Because of their open nature, MOOCS do not allow for learners of similar backgrounds and abilities to all participate in a course simultaneously; MOOCS are composed of learners from a range of backgrounds (Bali, 2014). For example, research conducted examining the performance of a MOOC titled First Steps in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education (FSLT12) at Oxford Brookes University showed that learners with experience were encouraged to offer a certain level of support to others not as familiar with the content being delivered (Mackness et al., 2013).

MOOCS provide limited opportunity to identify barriers to participation or to anticipate when students may not be engaging with the material (Koutropoulos et al., 2012). A significant percentage of MOOC participants may simply lurk instead of being active participants in the discourse of learning (Kop, 2011). MOOCS are not suited for environments where an instructor will need to pay close attention to participant language and non verbal cues to predict or encourage participation levels (Koutropoulos et al., 2012). The fact that it is difficult or impossible for a teacher to have a direct connection to every single student (Bali, 2014) also adds to the challenge. As a result, the formative assessments and feedback to the learner that are required to support the learning process are typically not included in a MOOC environment (Spector, 2014).

MOOCS are facilitated using distributed platforms that new learners have to adapt to and learn to navigate (Mackness et al., 2013). Additionally, a MOOC may not use a Learning Management System (LMS) (Koutropoulos et al., 2012). As a result of this distributed nature, they do not allow for easy gathering of data related to participation trends and learner motivation (Koutropoulos et al., 2012).

5 Links

Welcome to the Brave New World of MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses)

Why MOOCS might be just right for schools

The ideals and reality of participating in a MOOC

The year of the MOOC

Understanding Massive Open Online Courses

6 Works Cited

Bali, M. (2014). MOOC Pedagogy: Gleaning Good Practice from Existing MOOCs. Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 10(1), 44 -56.

Chen, Y. (2014). Investigating MOOCs Through Blog Mining. The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 15(2), 86 - 106. Retrieved June 2, 2014, from

Clara, M., & Barbera, E. (2013). Learning online: Massive open online courses (MOOCs), connectivism, and cultural psychology. Distance Education, 34(1). Retrieved May 14, 2014, from

Dazaa, V., Makriyannisa, N., & Rierab, C. R. (2014). MOOC attack: Closing the gap between pre-university and university mathematics. Open Learning: The Journal of Open, Distance and e-Learning, 28(3), 227 - 238. Retrieved April 14, 2014, from

De Langen, F., & Van Den Bosch, H. (2013). Massive Open Online Courses: Disruptive innovations or disturbing inventions? Open Learning: The Journal of Open, Distance and e-Learning, 28(3), 216 - 226.

Ebben, M., & Murphy, J. S. (2014). Unpacking MOOC scholarly discourse: A review of nascent MOOC scholarship. Learning, Media and Technology, 1, 1-18. Retrieved May 14, 2014, from

Esposito, A. (2012). Research ethics in emerging forms of online learning: Issues arising from a hypothetical study on a MOOC. Electronic Journal of e-Learning, 10(3). Retrieved May 14, 2014, from

Fournier, H, Mak, J, & Kop, R. (2011). A pedagogy of abundance or a pedagogy to support human beings? Participant support on massive open online courses. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 12(7), 79 - 93. Retrieved May 14, 2014, from

Knox, J., & Bayne, S. (2013). Multimodal profusion in the literacies of the massive open online course. Research in Learning Technology, 21. Retrieved May 14, 2014, from

Kop, R. (2011). The Challenges to connectivist learning on open online networks: Learning experiences during a massive open online course. The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 12(3). Retrieved May 14, 2014, from

Koutropoulos, A., Gallagher, M. S., Abajian, S. C., Waard, I. d., Hogue, R. J., Keskin, N. O., et al. (2012). Emotive vocabulary in MOOCs: Context & participant retention. European Journal of Open, Distance and E-Learning, 1. Retrieved May 14, 2014, from

Li, N., Verma, H., Skevi, A., Zufferey, G., Blom, J., & Dillenbourg, P. (2014). Watching MOOCs together: Investigating co-located MOOC study groups. Distance Education, 35. Retrieved June 3, 2014, from

Mackness, J., Waite, M., Roberts, G., & Lovegrove, E. (2013). Learning in a small, task-oriented, connectivist MOOC: Pedagogical issues and implications for higher education. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 14(4). Retrieved May 14, 2014, from

Pence, H. E. (2012). When will college truly leave the building: If MOOCs are the answer, what is the question? Journal of Educational Technology Systems, 41(1), 25-33.

Portmess, L. (2013). Mobile knowledge, karma points and digital peers: The tacit epistemology and linguistic representation of MOOCs. Canadian Journal of Learning and Technology, 39(2), 1 - 8. Retrieved May 15, 2014, from

Rodriguez, C. O. (2013). Two distinct course formats in the delivery of connectivist MOOCs. Turkish Online Journal of Distance Education, 14(2). Retrieved April 14, 2014, from

Rodriguez, C. O. (2012). MOOCs and the AI-Stanford like courses: Two successful and distinct course formats for massive open online courses. European Journal of Open, Distance and E-Learning, 2012(1), 132- 141.

Spector, J. M. (2014). Remarks on MOOCS and Mini-MOOCS. Educational Technology Research and Development, 62(3), 385 - 392. Retrieved June 1, 2014, from Remarks on MOOCS and Mini-MOOCS

Wenqiang, F. (2012). Connectivist MOOC and its learning support. Journal of Distance Education, 23. Retrieved May 15, 2014, from