An Exploratory Study in an Emerging Approach to E-Learning: Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC)

An Exploratory Study in an Emerging Approach to E-Learning: Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC)

Phu Vu (University of Nebraska – Kearney, USA), Lan Vu (Southern Illinois University – Carbondale, USA), Vien Cao (Southern Illinois University – Carbondale, USA) and Peter Fadde (Southern Illinois University – Carbondale, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-4757-2.ch008
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Abstract

The number and range of MOOC courses seem to be expanding constantly, making it difficult for researchers to describe MOOC and to prescribe principles of MOOC design and delivery. In this study, the authors joined several MOOC courses in order to investigate the aspects of online learning that are familiar, but that may be amplified in massive and open e-learning. These include technical issues, learner interactions on discussion boards, and learners’ concerns with grades. By counting and categorizing learners’ posts made on discussion boards in nine courses, the authors found that MOOC learners remain focused on grades, and that their interactions are more often social than indicative of deep learning.
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Background

What is MOOC?

According to Siemens and Downes (2009), a massive open online course (MOOC) is a natural byproduct of open teaching and learning. Siemens and Downes may have delivered the first MOOC in 2008 when they opened a “Connectivism and Connective Knowledge” course that was taught to on-campus students. This course was opened for more than 2,300 learners, who took the course not for credit, but rather to participate in different activities, such as course lectures, discussion forums, and weekly online sessions (Educause, 2012). McAuley, Stewart, Siemens, and Cormier (2010) took a broader description of MOOC as an online course that has the following characteristics: open and free registration, a publicly shared curriculum, and open-ended outcomes. A MOOC heavily relies on social networking, and accessible online resources. Such a course is often facilitated by leading practitioners in the field of study. Masters (2011) further elaborated that a massive course should be open to thousands of learners simultaneously engaged in a single course. In the future, that number of learners is expected to be even higher. Due to its early stage of development, there has not been a commonly accepted definition of a MOOC. However, there are two predominant features in MOOC. First, it offers open access to all participants. MOOC participants do not need to be registered students to “take” a MOOC, and they are not required to pay a fee. This aspect may change soon as for-profit MOOC providers such Udacity and Coursera have joined the field. If this happens, its key feature of “open access” will have to be redefined. Another core characteristic of MOOC is scalability. While traditional brick and mortar courses and even traditional online courses depend on a small ratio of learners to instructor, the “massive” in MOOC indicates that the course is designed to be able to admit an almost indefinite number of participants.

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