What is a MOOC?


Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are an evolutionary step further than Open Content. A few faculty have begun using online platforms to teach courses to large numbers of students, occasionally reaching above 100,000 enrollments in a single course offering. These courses are offered for free to anyone who chooses to access them. In the majority of cases, course credits are not offered for completing a MOOC. While one-off MOOCs have been taught since at least 2008, they are rapidly gaining momentum, largely due to companies and collaborative projects such as Coursera, edX, and Udacity.

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(1) How might this technology be relevant to the educational sector you know best?

  • In their publication MOOCs: A Systematic Study of the Published Literature 2008-2012, Tharindu Rekha Liyanagunawardena ((University of Reading) (, Andrew Alexandar Adam Meiji (University, Japan reviews) , and Shirley Ann Williams (University of Reading)reviews the literature available on MOOCs. http://www.irrodl.org/index.php/irrodl/article/view/1455/2531
    The results are not surprising. Peer reviewed publications are limited; there is some research on the learner perspective but little on that of the facilitator, and we do not know if MOOCs are here to stay. But they are here now.
    Many of the best universities in the world have partnered with a MOOC provider to offer new courses, designed and developed by institutional lecturers. The courses are free and open to all if they have a connection to the world-wide-web. Trinity College joined the UK partnership, Futurelearn in June 2013. The FutureLearn page promotes MOOCs ‘learn anything, learn together and learn with the experts’. The first Trinity MOOC released in September 2014, Irish Lives in War and Revolution attracted 18,000 registrations and some great reviews at the end of the course.
    https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/irish-history.
    From an institutional viewpoint, being involved in the development of Ireland's first international MOOC was a very positive and enriching experience. Since FutureLearn offered their first MOOC in September 2013, third levels partners have offered courses in many categories, science, business and management, creative arts, history, health, law, teaching and learning and many more. These courses are available to all to tap into for different reasons, learning about a new topic in transition year to consider future study at College, learning to learn at third level, enhance learning at College via the MOOC, gaining a new perspective on a subject etc. Higher education and individuals have at their disposal a mammoth of new digital knowledge/resources designed to a high standard to support learning. The opportunity should not be under utilised. - Teresa.Logan-Phelan Teresa.Logan-Phelan Jan 29, 2015
  • I believe that MOOCs will grow, but this view is based on several other developments: (i) MOOCs will become associated with robust assessment most likely using a Competency Based approach, where learners can pay for assessment and get actual college credit, (ii) institutions will accept such credits towards major awards, and (iii) MOOCs will become much cheaper to build once we get over the hype and realise that they can be almost as effective at much lower production costs. - brian.mulligan brian.mulligan Feb 11, 2015
  • MOOCS are the 'current' buzzword - and often used as a PR exercise by the relevant institution. We plan on using them as 'tasters' of what is on offer in the Institute, and then students can make a more informed decision about the type of courses they choose to attend.- Alison.Egan Alison.Egan Feb 12, 2015
  • I believe that MOOCS will grow too ... I think there is a huge opportunity for a MOOC to become part of an integrated educational experience for our learners, either by providing preparatory (or 'taster') information; as a voluntary 'elective' to supplement an area of interest; or as a scheduled and timetabled component of a module. From my experience, the quality of the resources was excellent and the experience was extremely engaging however what I would have liked was a follow-up classroom discussion to provide an opportunity to embed what I had learned. I think this is an exciting space and a huge opportunity to leverage the power of the digital world to provide enriching experiences for our learners. For learners who need a little extra support, the availability of identified or recommended additional online resources to supplement the formal curriculum may provide a much richer personal experience. I think we ignore these at our peril! - rosemary.cooper rosemary.cooper Feb 15, 2015

(2) What themes are missing from the above description that you think are important?

    • How can third level institutions tap into open digitalised resources to support the transition to third level and support the student learning experience. - Teresa.Logan-Phelan Teresa.Logan-Phelan Jan 29, 2015

  • Do MOOCs encourage/promote/result in superficial learning? - anne.walsh anne.walsh Feb 12, 2015 Or can they be used as building blocks to enable deeper engagement with other programmes? - deirdre.butler deirdre.butler Feb 14, 2015
  • How (and indeed, if) MOOCS are more than just a PR exercise - what is the return for the college, if they're not getting fees. While the IT & marketing departments want to do them, often the accountants would rather we didn't.- Alison.Egan Alison.Egan Feb 12, 2015
  • Perhaps one of the big outcomes from the whole MOOC project is the question it poses to traditional HE institutes (esp those of us offering progs in the same online world as MOOCs), something along the lines: if all of *that* is out there what (beyond accreditation) are we offering? What is the USP for traditional online HE when all of this stuff (quality content, subject matter experts, peer learner groups) is available for free? It has also started a lot of related discussion re online retention, online scale, peer assessment and instruction, the role of the instructor figure etc. - Gearoid.OSuilleabhain Gearoid.OSuilleabhain Feb 15, 2015
  • Although there are no shortage of sources indicating we are now living in a post-MOOC world (i.e., MOOCs have actually come and gone) there are nearly as many identifying the next thing for MOOCs: e.g., corporate MOOCs, MOOC platform services (or service based on ex-MOOC platforms), accredited MOOCs (or credits given for MOOCs), and SPOCs (small private online course). Some of this should be reflected even in the introductory piece above. - Gearoid.OSuilleabhain Gearoid.OSuilleabhain Feb 15, 2015
  • MOOC-Based Programmes
    - the problem with fine grained free learning materials is that these need to be curated into a learning pathway leading to major awards (e.g. degrees). this can be difficult for learners who do not know the full landscape of learning for a particular profession. MOOCs improve this at a module/course level. However, it is difficult to string MOOCs together to make up a complete programme. The Georgia Tech masters in Computer Science is an example of this and looks like it will be very attractive to many. It may even threaten other equivalent campus based and online masters programmes. The new nano-degrees being offered by Udacity indicate the potential although they may suffer from not being directly awarded by a respected educational institution. - brian.mulligan brian.mulligan Feb 11, 2015 I think there's potential for MOOC-aligned programmes .. or a programme/module with an integrated MOOC. - rosemary.cooper rosemary.cooper Feb 15, 2015 - rnidhubhda rnidhubhda Feb 12, 2015 Some interesting data regarding MOOC completion rates here: http://www.katyjordan.com/MOOCproject.html [Editor's Note: Thanks for sharing! This was added here from RQ3 discussions]

(3) What do you see as the potential impact of this technology on third-level education in Ireland?

MOOCs themselves may have little impact, but combined with a Competency Based approach to learning and assessment (e.g. Georgia Tech Masters in Computer Science) they could enable some serious competition based on price. - brian.mulligan brian.mulligan Feb 11, 2015
Short MOOCs on generic topics can be useful in providing 'foundational' knowledge. MOOCs advertise well; that is their main benefit. - anne.walsh anne.walsh Feb 12, 2015 They could be useful for students who lack knowledge in a particular area / aspect that they not have sufficient background in and by participating in the MOOC they will attain the skills necessary to engage fully in their coursework - deirdre.butler deirdre.butler Feb 14, 2015
I think they're ideal for students trying to make decisions about the types of courses they want to do, and get a 'badge' for their effort. Then they come to the Institute with more realistic expectations- Alison.Egan Alison.Egan Feb 12, 2015
  • The challenge for HEIs is how to move from 'free to fee'. If we consider Amazon, upon making a purchase, we get recommendations for additional products, such as " customers who bought this also bought ...". Maybe there is an opportunity for closer partnerships with MOOC providers to align programmes and get our fee paying courses advertised as recommended 'next steps' once a person has completed a MOOC? This would show learners where there learning could lead them... I think strategic partnerships may be worthy of investigation. - rosemary.cooper rosemary.cooper Feb 15, 2015

(4) Do you have or know of a project working in this area?

  • IT Sligo / Intel is working with 4 other partners to develop four MOOCs in coding and robotics for secondary students - brian.mulligan brian.mulligan
  • IT Sligo is working with TU delft, U de Girona, Bath Spa U, and FHS bielefeld on a metaMOOC on low-cost production of MOOCs LoCoMoTion - brian.mulligan brian.mulligan Feb 11, 2015
  • IT Sligo is working towards awarding full college credits for the successful "Introduction to Lean Sigma Quality" MOOC ( 2 deliveries so far, >4000 registered, 1000 awarded certs of completion) - brian.mulligan brian.mulligan Feb 11, 2015
  • MIE is working on www.mie.ie/jamie - a release of Irish videos for school students to help them prepare for their Oral Irish exam - at no cost, but as a PR/Marketing exercise to put MIE in the minds of the 6th year student filling out their CAO form.- Alison.Egan Alison.Egan Feb 12, 2015
  • Also, as Teresa said, I was an 'attendee' at the TCD MOOC and am aware of it as an example of a nice 'generic' topic that appealed to a wide spectrum of 'student'- Alison.Egan Alison.Egan Feb 12, 2015
  • I think Ireland's own ALISON platform ([[http://alison.com/) deserves]] some credit as a kind of proto-MOOC which has not only been in existence far long that the big MOOC players (Coursera, Udacity, EdX and, more recently, FutureLearn) but also has a sustainable business model. - Gearoid.OSuilleabhain Gearoid.OSuilleabhain Feb 15, 2015


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