Is That MOOC an A or C or X or some other letter?

MOOCs only have a history of about a little more than four years. The term MOOC was coined in 2008 by Dave Cormier and Bryan Alexander in response to an earlier open online course that had been designed and led by George Siemens and Stephen Downes. Those early courses were founded on the learning theory of connectivism. That theory holds that knowledge should be distributed across a network of connections. Learning comes from being able to construct and traverse those networks.

dictionary-1 copy.jpg Because a number of MOOCs that appeared in 2011 and 2012 were not connectivist in their philosophy or design, the term xMOOC was used to distinguish them from the connectivist cMOOC.

Although Massive Open Online Courses are still rather new, the definition of what a MOOC is or what it can be is already changing.

For example, there is no absolute agreement on what number equals "massive."  5000, 25,000 125,000 participants? All sizes have been offered.

And "open" has at least four possible meanings. Does kt refer to the admission into courses, freedom from cost, using open source software, or that it uses open reusable content?

As I have written earlier, the course I'll be running this month about "Academia and the MOOC" (for NJEDge using the Canvas Network) will probably have 500-1000 participants, so I don't consider it "massive."  Others have felt the same about their offerings and the term BOOC, for a Big but not massive MOOC has been thrown into the mix.

And since my offering has very little of the traditional elements of a course - no tests, grades, assignments, or credit - I don't consider it to be a "course" as much as I consider it to be a conversation or colloquium.

Just last month, the University of Massachusetts - Boston launched a course using a new learning management system (Adaptive Mobile Online Learning) to deliver what they are calling the first aMOOC - an adaptive Massive Online Open Course.

So much attention has been on MOOC content, class sizes, and credentialing, that the technology that allows and delivers these courses is also important and is part of what differentiates these various MOOCs.

These early days of MOOCs are a bit confusing and the definition is sure to continue to evolve. I suspect the semantics of the MOOC is less important than the experiments and the idea that they will probably change not only how we do online learning but also learning in all settings. And the part that probably scares some educators and institutions, even more, is that they may change the definitions of "courses," "credits" and "degrees."


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