What is a MOOC?

A Massive Open Online Course or MOOC is a web-based online course that is intended to provide free access to university level education for as many people as possible. It is characterized by its massive number of participants and openness (McAuley, A., Stewart, B., Siemens, G., & Cormier, D., 2014).  There is no absolute definition of each of these characteristics, however. Even the concept of massive is open to discussion. Typically, the number of participants in a course ranged from thousands to tens of thousands. Although, the number of completion was much lower, ranging from 7 to 9 percent of the initial enrollees, depending on the course (Knowledge@Wharton, 2012). Most MOOCs are free and open to anyone who wishes to participate. To participate in a MOOC, one only needs to create an account using their emails. There are no, or minimal, prerequisites for participation other than Internet access and interest. All of the learning materials, course discussion activities, and assignments are offered through a specific web platform, such as Coursera, EdX, or Udacity. MOOCs usually address a global target group. The Digital Storytelling MOOC, had participants from 184 countries, where the majority of them came from North America, Europe, and Asia.

Typically, MOOCs are free and do not offer course credit, although it is changing. In November 2013, American Council of Education (ACE) announced five MOOCs that deserve college credit. Although there are mix reactions, several universities have begun including MOOCs as parts of their degree program.  Georgia Tech, for example, has just started offering a Master’s program in Computer Science on summer 2014 (Wulf, Blohm, & Brenner, 2014). They reported that the tuition fees for the program were only a fraction of the traditional program. If not offered as part of a traditional degree program, MOOCs may also be offered as alternative courses, such as the Xseries that is offered by MITx, a division of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) that offers courses on the nonprofit edX’s platform.

Below is a brief introduction video on MOOCs:

Here are some examples of MOOC Platforms:

For more information about Massive Open Online Courses, please see: The Ultimate MOOC Handbook