Skip to main content

Research Guides

Digital Pedagogy - A Guide for Librarians, Faculty, and Students

This guide is meant to inform the user about Digital Pedagogy. It includes information on educational theory, a collection of case studies, and resources relevant to the study of digital pedagogy.

What's a MOOC?

What is a MOOC?

MOOC stands for Massive Open Online Course

Hannah Gore, in her article "Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) and Their Impact on Academic Library Services:
Exploring the Issues and Challenges," provides a good elaboration of what MOOCs are. She describes them as follows:

Massive: considered massive as registration on courses is not capped (with enrolment in some cases exceeding 100,000 students)

Open: in the sense that anyone can enroll in a MOOC, in order to take advantage of these widely available Open Educational Resources. Registration for the majority of MOOCs is open, although some MOOCs have pre-requisites, and for-fee registrations, examinations or certificates of completion.

Online: Typically, there is no requirement for face-to-face attendance by a student when they are enrolled in a MOOC.

Course: the concept of a pedagogically designed learning journey.

In 2012, the Chronicle of Higher Education published a webpage that get updated regularly, entitled "What you need to know about MOOCs." It gives a great, brief overview of many pertinent aspects of MOOCs. Check it regularly for updates.

Characteristics of MOOCs

The article “Are you MOOC-ing yet? A Review for Academic Libraries,” the authors describe some typical MOOCs structures and features. These include the following:

  • Often presented by celebrated specialist presenters are frequently course presenters

  • MOOCs often include timelines and syllabae for completion of MOOC

  • They include videotaped lectures, weekly homework problem sets, online resources, reading lists, midterms, finals, sometimes replicating content contained in an in-class course.

  • Some may offer virtual office hours/consultations, online discussion forums.

  • Some contribute to flipped classroom approaches at certain institutions, where students are formally enrolled in MOOCs, watch lectures and do exercises of campus, and participate in active learning activities on campus.

  • MOOCs give everyone access to world class education.

  • MOOCs our similar types of activity:

  1. aggregation (access provided to reading, video, web resources)

  2. remixing (content can be reused in a different format)

  3. repurposing

  4. feeding forward (share work with others)

  • Additionally, there are four phenomena common to all MOOCs:

  1. internal diversity

  2. internal redundancy

  3. neighbor interatctions

  4. decentralized control

New Media Consortium 2013 Horizon Report, an annual report that allows those working in higher education to get a good understanding about how emerging technologies are impacting educational delivery, and when these technologies are likely to enter the mainstream. This report, in reference to MOOCs, states that a “A key component of the original vision is that all course materials and the course itself were open source and free—with the door left open for a fee if a participant taking the course wanted university credit to be transcripted for the work.”

Brief History of MOOCs

The history of MOOCs has been described as a rapid evolution, short in timescale, and still evolving.

It can be traced back to 2008 when Stephen Downes and George Siemens launched “Connectivism and Connective Knowledge/2008” (CCK8), a for-credit course at the University of Manitoba, Canada. The course pushed the boundaries of connectivism with Siemens and Downes (2011) utilizing a range of platforms from blogs, forums, and wikis to Facebook groups.

With over 2,200 registrations, this allowed learners to be part of a large, organic but interconnected learner community, while independently maintaining their own personal learning environments (PLEs) (Siemens 2013). In response to this event, Dave Cormier (University of Prince Edward Island) and Bryan Alexander (National Institute for Technology in Liberal Education) coined the term “MOOC” or Massive Open Online Course.

First MOOCs:

2007: Social Media & Open Education

2008 & 2009: Connectivism

2010: Personal Learning Environments Networks and Knowledge

2011: Learning and Knowledge Analytics

2011: First MOOC in the US: Jim Groom and Digital Storytelling at the University of Mary Washington 

2011: Stanford University: Machine Learning, Introduction to Artificial Intelligence, and Introduction to Databases. The course on artificial intelligence had 160,000 students. Resulted in the creation of Udacity.

2011: edX launched through MIT

2012: Coursera founded by computer science professors Andrew Ng and Daphne Koller from Stanford University 

2013 NMC Horizon Report

New Media Consortium (NMC) Horizon Report - 2013

The NMC 2013 Horizon Report, an annual report that allows those working in higher education to get a good understanding about how emerging technologies are impacting educational delivery, and when these technologies are likely to enter the mainstream, discussed a major feature of MOOCs in the following way: “A key component of the original vision is that all course materials and the course itself were open source and free—with the door left open for a fee if a participant taking the course wanted university credit to be transcripted for the work.”

The report also states that “Massively open online courses have received their fair share of hype in 2012, and are expected to grow in number and influence within the next year. Big name providers including Coursera, edX, and Udacity count hundreds of thousands of enrolled students, totals that when added together illustrate their popularity. One of the most appealing promises of MOOCs is that they offer the possibility for continued, advanced learning at zero cost, allowing students, life-long learners, and professionals to acquire new skills and improve their knowledge and employability. MOOCs have enjoyed one of the fastest uptakes ever seen in higher education, with literally hundreds of new entrants in the last year; critics loudly warn that there is a need to examine these new approaches through a critical lens to ensure they are effective and evolve past the traditional lecture-style pedagogies.”