Article Index


MOOC Overview

°     MOOC content is delivered largely via video, with quizzes and course discussion forums added to create interactive elements. There is no one-to-one support from faculty and instead the discussion forums are designed to encourage ‘peer’ support and collaboration. Though much of the discussion in these forums is not something from which one could learn.

°         MOOCs are different from previous offerings of open and free learning resources because they are separate entities from the faculty’s where there founders or course creators work, and are managed as businesses. These platforms are purpose built for remote learning by masses of learners, and are managed by a dedicated team of engineers. Some level of technical support is available to course creators, and the content is stored on remote servers and maintained by managed by MOOC staff. IP remains with the creator of the content. Much can be done to improve the user experience provided by MOOCs, and the level of intuitiveness in course presentation differ from platform to platform, and even from course to course within the same platform.

°       None of the course providers are presently providing resources for an entire degree (bachelor or masters) programme. Most courses are actually modules which are either taken directly from courses delivered on campus, or are modified versions of courses delivered on campus.

°         Typical class profiles tend to be very international with the largest number of participants logging on from the US, followed by India and then the UK.

°   Some courses award a certificate of completion but no course offers a formal assessment, and the only check against plagiarism is self regulated by the student and articulated through an honour code by which they must abide.

°       Many courses attracted highly educated students. Coursera’s  ‘Software as a Service’ and edX’s ‘Circuits and Electronics’ course administrators each report that over 70 percent of their participants have degrees (and more than a third have graduate degrees.)

°         Some MOOCs have been compared directly with on-campus courses. 63 percent of those who completed the EdX ‘Circuits and Electronics’ online course as well as a similar one on the MIT campus found the MOOC better; 36 percent found it comparable; and 1 percent, worse.

°         Many of the earlier course offerings centred on sub-disciplines within engineering. While such course offerings continue to be popular due to the relative ease with which quiz answers can automatically be checked, academics from the social sciences and humanities have also begun to experiment with online courses.

Quick Facts:
Coursera, for-profit, founded by current Stanford University professors. 
Udacity, for-profit, founded by former Stanford University professor.
edX, not-for-profit, founded by MIT and Harvard University.