Exploring the Usage of MOOCs in Higher Education Institutions: Characterization of the Most Used Platforms

Exploring the Usage of MOOCs in Higher Education Institutions: Characterization of the Most Used Platforms

Carolina Costa (DEGEIT - University of Aveiro, Aveiro, Portugal), Leonor Teixeira (DEGEIT / IEETA - University of Aveiro, Aveiro, Portugal) and Helena Alvelos (DEGEIT / CIDMA - University of Aveiro, Aveiro, Portugal)
DOI: 10.4018/IJICTE.2018100101
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This article analyses the current usage of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) in HEIs. First, a literature review is performed to identify and classify the recent developments in the area and to characterize the most used platforms and courses. Following this, an analysis of MOOCs offered by some HEIs is carried out to characterize and compare the courses available in the platforms. Concerning the main findings, the literature reveals that usage of MOOCs has been growing in recent years and that Coursera and EdX are the two main platforms used. The analysis of MOOCs available in those platforms shows that the number of universities using them and the number of courses offered have been increasing. The comparison between the courses available through the above-mentioned platforms shows that EdX is more interdisciplinary. The outcomes of this article are valuable for researchers on ICT use in HEI and may help professors implementing MOOCs in their own environment.
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1. Introduction

Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) are becoming more receptive to integrating new technologies into their teaching and learning processes, with Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) platforms being one of the most recent.

The MOOC is a concept associated with e-learning (Fini, 2009) and offers world class education to an unlimited number of participants (massive) around the globe with Internet access (online) for low or no fees (Aboshady et al., 2015; Glance, Forsey & Riley, 2013). MOOCs make use of some traditional course materials such as videos or short videos combined with formative quizzes, texts and problem sets, using tools for interaction, in order to build a community of students and lecturers (Ahlberg, 2014). In these courses, it is also possible to implement formative quizzes, automated assessment, peer and self-assessment and online forums for support and discussion (Glance et al., 2013). Therefore, they can offer educational benefits to HEIs, professors and students (Aboshady et al., 2015), providing opportunities for thousands of learners to participate in free online courses (Ahlberg, 2014; Yousef, Chatti, Wosnitza & Schroeder, 2015).

Hew and Cheung (2014, p. 51) refer to three main differences between MOOCs and traditional classroom courses: “the large and diverse student enrolment in MOOCs, the high dropout rate of MOOCs compared to that of traditional courses, and the relatively lack of instructor presence or support in MOOCs compared to traditional courses”. Concerning the comparison between MOOCs and traditional e-learning courses, it is recognized that MOOCs involve more self-directed learning than other e-learning courses, and that the central role of the mediator is more recognised in traditional e-learning courses than in MOOCs (Nyoni, 2013).

The underlying technology of MOOCs is recent. The first MOOC was launched in 2008 (Ahlberg, 2014; Fini, 2009) and in 2011 there was a 'wave of offers' of MOOCs (Tschofen & Mackness, 2012). At present, HEIs are offering a growing variety of MOOCs (Yousef et al., 2015), using different platforms.

This paper aims to analyse the current usage of MOOC platforms by HEIs. This analysis was performed in two phases: the first one consisted of a literature review performed in order to (1) identify and classify the published works and the recent developments in this area, (2) identify the most popular MOOC platforms, and (3) characterize the most used platforms and courses based on the practical cases reported in the literature. The second phase involved the analysis of MOOCs offered by some of the most recognized HEIs around the world, in order to characterize and compare the courses available in the two most popular MOOC platforms.

The paper is organized in four sections. The MOOC concept was outlined in this introductory section. The characterization of the most popular MOOC platforms through data from a systematic search is described in the second section and, in the third section the most used MOOC platforms in HEIs are characterized through the data collected. Finally, in the fourth section, some conclusions and directions for future work are presented.


In this section, the research method of the literature revision and a brief characterization of the articles considered relevant are presented (section 2.1). In section 2.2, the most mentioned MOOC platforms in the selected articles are identified and the two most often referred to are characterized.

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