(Massive Open Online Course)

What is a MOOC?

The MOOCs have just born and, therefore, are in a process of transformation and settlement and nobody can categorically say what a MOOC is. But in some way, MOOCs are the natural evolution of OpenCourseWare, first created by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 2001. Therefore, it does not surprise that the MIT also leads the development of MOOCs, first with MITx, and then with edX.

The term MOOC was coined during the course "Connectivism and Connective Knowledge" by Dave Cormier, from the University of Prince Edward Island (Canada).

In the Wikipedia, the following definition of Massive open online course is provided:

A massive open online course (MOOC) is an online course aimed at large-scale interactive participation and open access via the web. In addition to traditional course materials such as videos, readings, and problem sets, MOOCs provide interactive user forums that help build a community for the students, professors, and teaching assistants (TAs). MOOCs are a recent development in distance education.

In The MOOC model for digital practice, a clear definition of a MOOC can be found:

A MOOC is an online course with the option of free and open registration, a publicly-shared curriculum, and open-ended outcomes. MOOCs integrate social networking, accessible online resources, and are facilitated by leading practitioners in the field of study. Most significantly, MOOCs build on the engagement of learners who self-organize their participation according to learning goals, prior knowledge and skills, and common interests.

However, it is not entirely clear when a course is or is not a MOOC, but there are a number of features that are typically required for a course to be considered a MOOC:

It should have some learning objectives to be achieved by students after certain activities within in a given period of time (therefore, it should have a beginning and an end). In addition, it should have some quizzes and exams to assess the knowledge acquired by students. And there should be some kind of interaction between students and teachers in every possible way (student-student and student-teacher).
Open has several meanings in MOOCs. On one hand, the course should be open to everyone and should not require some prerequisites such as possession of a qualification or a level of performance in earlier studies. On the other hand, the access to educational resources (videos, lecture notes) should be free (but other things, like being able to ask direct questions to the teacher, the correction of the activities, or obtaining a certificate at the end of the course may have an economic cost). .Open. is also often interpreted as it does not make use of a closed learning platform, but educational resources are hosted in different places like websites, blogs, wikis, or multimedia repositories. Finally, "open" is also often interpreted as the course makes extensive use of open content, and in turn, content generated by the course is also published open so it can be reused by others. This latter interpretation of "open" is the least fulfilled nowadays, as the most successful MOOCs are organized by companies, such as Coursera or Udacity, who have little interest in sharing their courses open.
The course is done remotely via the Internet and does not require physical attendance at a classroom. This feature is essential for anyone from anywhere in the world with an Internet connection can participate in these courses.
It should allow access to a very large number of students, much larger than a face-to-face class, or a traditional online course. In addition, the course should be prepared to accept changes in the number of students in several orders of magnitude, for example, going from 1,000 to 100,000 students, without a major problem for operation.

Classification of MOOCs

At the beginning, the first MOOCs had a strong and deep collaborative philosophy (cMOOCs), but this philosophy has evolved to a commercial sense (xMOOCs).
A cMOOC emphasizes the connectivist philosophy: it is a social platform for collaboratively sharing and building knowledge within a community of people.
An xMOOC relies on a more traditional model of education, based on lectures recorded in videos, and usually is well-financed.

Check our scientific paper MOOCs gone wild, published in 2014, to know more about the different categories of MOOCs.