Category Archives: MOOC

When is a MOOC not a MOOC?

The new breed of MOOCs are now coming in for increasing scrutiny as the stakes are being raised higher – with some education systems in the US in particular hoping to replace expensive campus based teaching with lower cost online teaching. This seems a bit hasty, as the limited evidence so far would suggest that for many learners an online only option might not be ideal [citation needed].

But my biggest issue with the new MOOCs is that they really aren’t MOOCs at all…

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FutureLearn: The OU Strikes Back

Having lost the public grount to the big US Universities on free online education, as Coursera, Udacity and EdX have gained massive numbers of users over the last 12 months, while OpenLearn has been largely ignored by the press over the same period – despite some re-branding and development on the web site. From a brief glance, one of the key changes to OpenLearn is the degree to which it now promotes the non-free OU courses, though that is only to be expected.

But now the OU is leading the first UK based open-learning consortium to try to regain ground lost to the American giants, with FutureLearn. The universities forming the initial grouping of the consortium are The Open University along with Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, East Anglia, Exeter, King’s College London, Lancaster, Leeds, Southampton, St. Andrews and Warwick. Overall, a slightly surprising collection of Universities, drawn from three different UK university groupings – perhaps highlighting the somewhat artificial nature of the groupings that do exist.

FutureLearn has been launched, but no details yet on what courses will be run, and nothing much to go on yet as to how it’ll differ in practice from any of the existing options. More choice is obviously going to be good for learners, but we are still waiting to see how universities will actually make these consortia financially sustainable in the long term.

CFP: Special issue on MOOC in JOLT

The MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching (JOLT at has just released a Call for Papers for a special issue on Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), to be published in Summer (June) 2013. The Guest Editors of the special issue are George Siemens (Athabasca University), Valerie Irvine (University of Victoria), and Jillianne Code (University of Victoria).

Proposals in the form of extended abstracts (500 words) are due on November 15, 2012, with full manuscripts due on January 31, 2013.

The full Call for Papers is available at the following URL:

Learning about Learning Design and MOOCs

Two upcoming MOOCs (Massively Online Open Courses, in case there are folk still not sure what the acronym is for!) that I have signed up for – though whether I’ll be able to complete them I honestly don’t know yet. It is no secret that my blogging, virtual worlds, and research activity have all slowed down over the last year or so – as I’ve had to put increasing amounts of time into my day job of lecturing. But with some luck I’ll be able to get stuck into these two…

Starting soon, will be the Open University’s Open Learning Design Studio MOOC. The course aims are fourfold:

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Alternate Reality Games, Massive Online Open Courses and Collective Intelligence

George Siemens has a nice set of slides up on MOOC as a new educative practice which do a very good job of capturing the differences between MOOC and the free online courses now offered by the likes of Coursera (the new home of the Stanford free online courses, plus some from other partner universities), Udacity and MITx. Where that latter are offering free online access to a very traditional form of education (based on lectures and learning a set content syllabus), MOOC are quite different. As George states in the introduction to each of his MOOC courses:

“the learning in the course results from the activities you undertake, and will be different for each person”

MOOC use a far more distributed model of learning and interaction, where most of the content is itself generated by the students as they share their learning.

Outside of education, I would say that the closest thing we have to MOOCs are probably Alternate Reality Games – which have been posited as a form of Collective Intelligence. Some (not all) MMO games also require very large scale collaboration (Eve Online is the one that springs to mind).

I was talking about Massively Collaborative systems in my Collaborative Virtual Environments class this week, and seeing this link between MOOC and ARG, I appended some of George’s slides (properly acknowledged of course) to the existing slides on ARG as collective intelligence (Why I love bees: ARG and Collective Intelligence, and below).

I would also say that while I totally agree with George on the key differences between MOOC and the other offerings, and that MOOC are more interesting to think about because they are a genuine attempt to do something different in a different way, I should say that I don’t feel that MOOC threaten the role of teaching universities nearly as much as the likes of Udacity.