In the news

MOOCs. We’ve all heard of them, seemingly relentlessly over the past year or so. Some of us have even signed up for a course, although fewer of us got through the first week, and even fewer finished. There was even one for librarians(again, that some of us signed up for but realized that on top of 3 classes, full time job, 3 kids there was just no way.)
A MOOC, or Massive Open Online Course, is just that – a course available to pretty much everyone online for free. Watters offers “an abbreviated history” of the MOOC:

To recap: in 2008, Dave Cormier coins the term “MOOC” to describe George Siemens’ and Stephen Downes’ course “Connectivism and Connective Knowledge.” In the Fall of 2011, Stanford offers open enrollment in online versions of three engineering classes: Artificial Intelligence (taught by Sebastian Thrun and Peter Norvig), Machine Learning (taught by Andrew Ng), and Databases (taught by Jennifer Widom). In December 2011, MIT unveil MITx. In January 2012, Thrun announces he’s leaving Stanford to launch Udacity. In April 2012, Ng, along with Stanford colleague Daphne Koller, launch Coursera. In May 2012, Harvard and MIT team up for edX. In December 2012, 12 British universities partner to launch their MOOC platform, FutureLearn. And in 2013… (Watters, 2013.)

She proclaims 2013 to be the year of the Anti-MOOC, that we are now in the “Trough of Disillusionment” (Watters, 2013) after hitting the peak earlier this year. Reading through all the MOOC news over 2013, though, paints a picture of MOOCs going mainstream. Coursera expanded, adding verified student identities, more university partners (seriously a lot, including in the US, Europe, Australia, and Asia), professional development courses for teachers, raised funding ($85 million in total.) edX, the platform started at Harvard and MIT, also expanded, adding many more partners including Yale and Google. Udacity also expands, although announced that they were turning away from higher education.  2013 was really the year of expansion.

There were a few setbacks this year, notably the partnership between Udacity and San Jose State for “poor performance of enrolled students” (Watters, 2013.) Udacity’s founder even admitted to having “a lousy product” (Watters, 2013.) Many faculty have raised concerns about their roles in decision-making, about oversight, about the quality of the platforms, and more. There is also the issue of lack of data and transparency on students and achievement. One study shows a completion rate of about 13%, but cautions that most courses and platforms do not make their data public (Watters, 2013.)

Other issues Watters tackles are:
  • How MOOCs (can) make money – offering for credit courses, certificates of completion, more corporate training are some suggestions.)
  • Varieties of MOOCs – DOCC, BOOC, MOOD, etc., online classes calling themselves MOOCs, courses and platforms that remove the idea of that first O, open.

We’ll continue to hear about MOOCs in 2014, and I imagine they will continue to expand. More courses will be offered for credit and there will be a greater push toward making these platforms profitable. I will probably sign up for at least 3 courses and not complete a single one.
Watters, Audrey. (2013, November 29.) Top Ed-Tech Trends of 2013: MOOCs and Anti-MOOCs. Hack education. Retrieved December 7, 2013, from
Categories: LIS7880, MOOC

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