A few weeks ago I talked about online training and posed the question: How big is too big? This week I want to focus on Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). If any training method is too big, certainly it would have to be the one with "Massive" right there in its name, right? Well, maybe not. I've been doing some research and have found that there is a LOT of information floating around out there. I thought it might be useful to bring you a concise shakedown on what's up with all these MOOCs.
First, if you're a video person, check out this video by Neal Gillis in which Dave Comier, one of the people who founded the term MOOC, gives a good explanation.
If you're not a video person, I'll break it down. A MOOC, at its root form, is open to the public and costs nothing. It is catered to those with self-discipline and a desire to learn. There is not necessarily anything special about the content, but in the case of the MOOC, the course content is paced. Reading and topics are partitioned into weeks. You needn't go through all the material, but it's all there and the assumption is that you are self-motivated enough to want to get through it. Then you share your thoughts on the material through blogs and social networks. Ideally everything will be hash-tagged so it can be easily found and shared among participants. Alternatively, student responses will be gathered in a Learning Management System (LMS) where all the participants can access them. In short: A MOOC is a knowledge-base elaborated through chat, completion of assignments, and feedback by a group of self-motivated people who are interested in the topic.
Of course, there's more to MOOCs. If you'd like to dig a bit deeper, here is some further reading.
MOOCs continue to spread through high-brow institutions:
And into high schools as well:
Some MOOCs are set up to steer students to paid follow-up courses to receive professional certificates:
Harvard Law School is chucking out the "M" for "Massive" in its Copyright MOOC, and allowing only 500 students (as opposed to the 100,000 who were in Harvard's first MOOC offering):
And while we're at it, how big is too big for online training classes in general?
Are MOOCs breeding grounds for cheaters? Does it matter?
Running your own MOOC? Here's how to manage it:
Some fear the push for MOOCs will not lead to the edu-topia we all dream of (don't we?), but instead an industry led by venture capitalists that is neither free nor innovative:
And maybe that time is already here, as some places are already offering pared down versions of their courses, marketing them as similar to MOOCs, and charging money (but also giving credit) for them: