What’s a MOOC and why you should know and care!

What is MOOC?

A Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) is an online course aiming 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.

The term MOOC was coined in 2008 during a course called “Connectivism and Connective Knowledge” that was presented to 25 tuition-paying students in Extended Education at the University of Manitoba in addition to 2,300 other students from the general public who took the online class free of charge.

Let’s look at this youtube video by Dave Cormier which explains the concept of MOOC in a very easy way..

Also I am sharing along the deck of the talk which my friend and colleague Sarah Siegel and I did yesterday on this topic

My first MOOC

Well, my first experience with MOOC was when I enrolled for a Gamification course on Coursera.org in Aug 2012 delivered by Professor Kevin Werbach, University of Pennsylvania. The course was attended by 81,000 students from over 150 countries! These are tremendous figures but wait! This is not why MOOCs are awesome.

With the collective intelligence of this huge crowd the concept of learning has evolved.

The course included a set of graded assignments. In order to receive a certificate of completion, each student had to achieve a score of at least 70%. Most of the lecture videos also included embedded quiz questions, but these were not scored as part of the grade.

I have since then completed 2 more courses including Critical Thinking in Global Challenges by The University of Edinburgh and now enrolled in Inspiring Leadership through Emotional Intelligence by Case Western Reserve University which starts on May 1st, 2013.

The graded activities consisted of:

4 Homework Quizzes (multiple choice) — 35% of final grade
3 Written Assignments (peer assessed) — 5%, 10%, and 20%, for a total of 35% of final grade
Final Exam (multiple choice, covering the entire course with emphasis on the second half) — 30% of final grade

My MOOC experience

The sheer experience of writing assignments and the getting them reviewed by peer group was phenomenal. I also assessed peer assignment which allowed me to evaluate my own understanding and learn from others.

But wait, there is more. The MOOCs courses allow a community-type learning model where activity and collaboration continues in the forums and students can freely participate. The concept of ‘stage on the stage’ is not the only learning avenue.

Is MOOC for You?

While the learning happens at a massive scale, the onus lies with the student. Being opt-in in nature there is no pressure to attend the forums, participate, connect with the teaching guru and stretch ones perspective. The course concept will demand you to read a lot and also interact but this is not mandatory (most of the time) hence leaves a room for people who are just lurkers. MOOCs are for people who are looking for extra learning by utilizing their time. Completion rates are typically very low, with a steep drop-off in student participation starting in the first week. Broad-based but early data from Coursera suggest a completion rate of 7%-9%.


This is not for passive learners as it involves active content creation, which can become chaotic sometimes. As a participant you need to be able to self-regulate your learning and possibly give yourself a learning goal to achieve.

MOOCs can be utilized for basic concept clarity and understanding while all these courses are free, one has to dedicatedly invest time to gain the most out of it. Eventually, you decide if you are successful or not.

MOOCs in corporate world?

James Mazoue, Director of Online Programs at Wayne State University describes one possible innovation, “The next disruptor will likely mark a tipping point: an entirely free online curriculum leading to a degree from an accredited institution. With this new business model, students might still have to pay to certify their credentials, but not for the process leading to their acquisition. If free access to a degree-granting curriculum were to occur, the business model of higher education would dramatically and irreversibly change.”

Organizations can also utilize this methodology in a number of way and different segments:

  1.  To attract talent form the wider world
  2. To develop talent within the organization
  3. To share and explain basic yet critical concepts
  4. As a pre-something filter for the next step
  5. Share learning across a wider cohort

The future of MOOC

The concept is gaining popularity with more and more avenues available for students to learn. While there is a big debate going on whether this concept indeed open or not but in my opinion MOOCs provide a solid technology concept which needs to be harnessed more, allowing it to be more structured towards learning. The availability of random basic courses will not be fruitful in the long run.

Where can I access MOOCs

imageI am listing few websites which are offering free MOOCs but this is not the exhaustive list:

  1.     Coursera (https://www.coursera.org/)
  2.     Udacity (https://www.udacity.com/)
  3.     edX (https://www.edx.org/)
  4.     Khan Academy (https://www.khanacademy.org/)
  5.     Udemy (https://www.udemy.com/)
  6.     Codecademy (http://www.codecademy.com/)
  7.     Duolingo (http://duolingo.com/)

Do share your thoughts if you have or have not taken a MOOC course. Did it inspire you to learn and collaborate? Would you feel this is the future?


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12 thoughts on “What’s a MOOC and why you should know and care!

  1. debojitmojit April 25, 2013 at 3:53 pm Reply

    If you think about it Education is essentially the downloading of data and algorithms into our brains. For something with that purpose it is ridiculously dysfunctional as of today. Most people don’t have access to the high quality data. MOOCs will flourish because what was desperately needed has suddenly become possible.


  2. Khalid Raza April 25, 2013 at 4:17 pm Reply

    Thank you for passing by and sharing your perspective Debojit. I agree with you, as basic technology has allowed us to reach masses and with advent of social, people have realised the potential of mutual learning. MOOCs allow collective intelligence with connected learning.


  3. […] What is MOOC? A Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) is an online course aiming at large-scale interactive participation and open access via the web. In addition to traditional course materials such a…  […]


  4. Rumia Thakur April 25, 2013 at 11:37 pm Reply

    Thanks for sharing, I have been looking for MOOCs and websites that have reliable offerings, the list above helps.


  5. Khalid Raza May 6, 2013 at 10:25 am Reply

    Welcome Rumia. I am glad you liked the list and hope you enjoy enrolling for some MOOCs for yourself based on your interest. Although coursera is my favourite but I will be intesretd in knowing your perspective. Thank you for your time.


  6. Sylvia Moessinger June 25, 2013 at 2:30 am Reply

    Great article that provides a comprehensive overview about the MOOC landscape. Particularly lively is your personal experience. Personally I value the collaboration and communication with peers most in MOOCs.

    Thanks for mentioning my article ‘Don’t be a MOOC dropout’ here. I would like to point out to my series ‘MOOC around the world’ where I explored MOOCs in Europe, Australia, India and Latin America so far and the series will be continued soon with MOOCs from Canada and lesser known American MOOCs. You will find the articles – three so far – all on http://moocnewsandreviews.com/


  7. Khalid Raza July 8, 2013 at 12:21 pm Reply

    My pleasure Sylvia. I enjoyed your blog and I am sure all my readers/network too will benefit from it. Thank you for coming here and sharing your perspectives 🙂


  8. […] disseminate those boring mandate information chunks in a more enjoyable yet engaging manners. Read What is a MOOCs and why you should care to know more about […]


  9. Sarah Siegel (@SarahSiegel) April 30, 2014 at 9:34 pm Reply

    Khalid, thanks for co-facilitating our session ~a year ago. Since then, in my role in the Center for Advanced Learning (CAL), I was asked to write a whitepaper, which I did and which includes input from CAL colleagues Matt Valencius and Doug Lieberman. I posted it on Slideshare @ http://www.slideshare.net/sarahsiegel1/ibm-andmoo-csinnovationsinpracticewhitepaper


    • Khalid Raza May 1, 2014 at 7:47 am Reply

      Wow… That is awesome Sarah! I will surely have a look. Thank you for sharing it here with all of us. What was the highlight of the whitepaper – something which stood out for you/Doug/Matt?


  10. […] What is MOOC? A Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) is an online course aiming at large-scale interactive participation and open access via the web. In addition to traditional course materials such a…  […]


  11. […] —-What’s a MOOC and why should you care—- https://khalidraza9.wordpress.com/2013/04/25/what-is-mooc/ […]


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