December 21, 2013, by Helen Whitehead

Advent calendar #21: What is a MOOC anyway?

A MOOC is a Massive Open Online Course.  It is a free online course open to anyone with internet access.

A MOOC is designed for large numbers of participants and is often taken for personal and professional development as well as simple interest. Participants in a MOOC can take part as much or as little as they need to achieve their personal learning aims.  It is usually based in an online learning platform but may also use a variety of online tools.

While seed materials (often including videos; sometimes in the form of Open Educational Resources)  are usually provided, much of the content may be produced during the course by the participants themselves.  In some cases certificates of participation may be offered and assessment varies in its seriousness! Participants in some MOOCs, may gain a certificate or open badge, but only a small proportion of participants. Increasingly Universities are experimenting with providing  credit for those also registered with a University in the usual way.

While the first MOOCs, run by world leaders in the field, were collaborative learning events attracting sometimes over 100,000 learners, and were emphatically constructivist in nature,  it’s unlikely that that future MOOCs will attract this number. However, the principles of  participatory open courses in which interested participants sit alongside those seeking accreditation have been adapted and used by a number of universities and learning groups, for both internal and external participants. Some universities and other educational initiatives are using course designs based on MOOCs.

While some MOOCs tend to be a series of videos with a multiple-choice test (so not really learning with other people), FutureLearn MOOCs are designed around the ability to comment and discuss every piece of material, although the level of discussion and interaction between students can vary.

Our MOOC Sustainability, Society and You, which starts on January 6th, is designed around interaction and collaboration between participants. Information and research are presented from a number of sources (all open educational resources), but there are few “right answers” about sustainability – we need to work together to build a shared understanding of what we can do as individuals and as a society. Join us!

Posted in Advent calendarFuturelearnMOOCSustainability