The world is getting ever smaller, thanks in part to remarkable advances in technological communication over the past few decades. One of the most exciting movements to grace the globe is that of MOOC, or in layman’s terms, Massive Open Online Courses.
What is MOOC?
A Massive Online Open Course is a course offered for free by a university or educational institution to anybody with access to the Internet. Although a fee may be required for educational acknowledgement, the MOOC movement is essentially offering free, first-class education from any number of distinguished organisations. A growing amount of well-known schools are jumping on board, including the prestigious Stanford University, who see the advent of their online department as a step in restructuring the face of the university to meet the needs of the imminent future.
Who Started It?
In 2008 Canadian university Professors George Siemens and Stephen Downes created a course called “Connectivism and Connected Knowledge,” which was offered for free to over 2 000 registered online students. Dave Cormier bestowed the term MOOC, and thus this burgeoning trend had begun. However, the event that made the movement really explode onto the world’s front page was the enrolment of over 160 000 students in an online artificial intelligence course offered by Stanford Professor Sebastian Thrun and Google Research Director Peter Norvig.
The publicity and popularity of the Stanford course mentioned above spawned the creation of two dedicated online course platforms, Coursera and Udacity. MIT responded with MITx, and Harvard released EDx, and the number of online course providers continues to grow. Australia is no small contender in this game; Melbourne University, University of Queensland, and the University of Western Australia now also offer courses for online study. With Australians considered to be some of the most proficient Internet users in the world, this number will only continue to grow.
What it Means for the World
Free online study from distinguished universities makes higher learning available to a whole range of people who once may have found it impossible to fit regular courses into their schedules or budgets. Admittedly, a quick search online would have offered an abundance of options for online study, but the fact that these courses are from renowned
institutions makes them an invaluable product in the eyes of the world. Like any trend, MOOC is catching. As more of the world begins to study online, more of the world will want to study online. Suddenly there is a promise of a future with a more educated and aware global population.
How it Works
Like any university course, MOOC varies depending on the school that is hosting it, but a few factors remain constant. The course is scheduled, and enrollment is necessary before the commencement of term, which usually follows the academic calendar. Some courses offer assessment based on peer reviews and collaboration, while others take a more traditional approach and call for set assessment pieces to be submitted online. One characteristic of the newer MOOC courses is the predominance of a linear model, where students are presented with the course in designed chronology, rather picking and choosing what modules they wish to pursue.
MOOC is a trend that has changed the way the world looks at education. What exactly lies in the future of this relatively young program is hard to tell, but the path forward can only be educational. For many Australians it offers an exciting opportunity for higher education that was previously unavailable.
Watch this space for our next blog in the series, MOOC and Learning Management Systems.