What is a MOOC? This video from Dave Cormier will explain:




As with so many things, when looking for a good beginning introduction, I come to Wikipedia for a basic definition of  MOOC: “Massive Open Online Course (MOOC/mk/) is an online course aimed at unlimited participation and open access via the webIn addition to traditional course materials such as videos, readings, and problem sets, MOOCs provide interactive user forums that help build a community for students, professors, and teaching assistants (TAs). MOOCs are a recent development in distance education which began to emerge in 2012.”

MOOC Poster

“MOOC – Every letter is negotiable” by Mathieu Plourde

Last month  in this space, Barbara Stefanics wrote about iTunes U.  MOOCS from other providers are a similar source of learning, but not connect to Apple’s iTunes delivery.  You can find a MOOC by looking at the webpages of providers like CourseraFutureLearnEdX, or by consulting MOOC-List, an aggregator (directory) of Massive Open Online Courses  from different providers. There is a  table on the WIkipedia page which compares providers.

Because they are (mostly) free, online, and although delivered in real time when you “go to class” is up to you, MOOCs are an ideal way to investigate something you need to know more about, or are just curious about!  After you have enrolled, how much work you do is up to you – no one is looking over your shoulder. If you want to watch every video, and read every file, you may, but you don’t have to.  If you want to work for a certificate, you may, but you don’t have to.  If you want to participate in the forums, you may, but you don’t have to. This is self-directed learning!

This video from the New York Times is more than a year old, but is still an accurate description of the evolution of MOOCs.


[videos file=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KqQNvmQH_YM” width=”450″ height=”253″][/videos]


MOOC media has almost replaced watching television for me – there is not much on broadcast television that interests me, and there are so many MOOCs I would like to explore!  When considering a MOOC course, there are two aspects to consider. One is the content – as with any course – is it well prepared?  Is the teacher knowledgeable? Is this the information you expected to explore?  The second aspect is the production: Is this course merely the video of a lecture, with poor sound, and low resolution of projected slides? Was the media created for a web format? Is the course “package” of webpages easy to understand and navigate?  Only you can judge whether or not a course is worth your time and interest – and you didn’t pay US$60,000 a year to attend it!

I strongly urge you to consult the tag cloud at MOOC-List (and follow them  on Twitter) or check the OpenCulture list of free online courses,  and select a course that interests you.  Perhaps your school doesn’t offer this material?  or not in such detail?  or you’re just curious about the field, and want to know more? A MOOC is a great way explore at your own pace, to dig deeper into a subject you already love, or just get a preview of a new world.