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 course 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, responses, and evaluations in an online forum. Some platforms, such as UNX, include peer-to-peer assignments review as a way of learning and collaborating. Additionally, it is a means for the institutions to allow reviewing manual evaluation-based activities, such as project development, with a low cost for human resources. Such peer-to-peer collaboration on MOOCs is spurring quality content creation, as evidenced by the Peer to Peer University (P2PU) and the Code Academy.


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(2) What themes are missing from the above description that you think are important?

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