More MOOCs

MOOCs ended last year and MOOCs begin this year. MOOCs are currently here there and everywhere, but under the surface the hype is being mixed with words of caution. This is welcome. So far I’ve been happy to promote the potential of MOOCs and post links to the different places where MOOCs can be found. It’s another rung in the affordances of the internet for the life long learning agenda. However, MOOCS should be seen for what they are – access to educational resources rather than access to equivalent university experiences.  Sir John Daniel, previously VC for the OU, has written a perspective on MOOCs at which offers an account of their sort history and appraises their usefulness.

‘This essay has taken a critical stance because the discourse about MOOCs is overloaded with hype and myth while the reality is shot through with paradoxes and contradictions.’ 2012: 18

Not a bad place to start. Meeting your critics is one way to success. The poor quality of MOOCs and the fragility of their free access is covered and attention drawn to their frequent reliance on old out of date behaviourist pedagogies based on models of information transmission. Where in the 21st century the internet enables interaction and networks, it is acknowledged how these rarely happen in isolation. Instead, the potential for collaborative communities of practice built around subject specialisms needs online intervention and presence; this can only come from a tutor experienced in this sort of distance online interaction between a group of eclectic strangers.

This reinforces the necessity for online learning to have a number of off line prerequisites in place. These include support for learning design and content development, in particular accessible, inclusive multimedia, and appropriate digital literacies for engaging with and operating effectively within online environments. MOOCs offer the incentive for universities to revisit how they already teach and learn on campus and re-examine their mechanisms for transferring this knowledge and skill to virtual platforms and for this reason alone their potential should not be dismissed.

UK e-University and MOOCs; polar opposites in philosophy and practice

Moocs are in the news again. They are dominating Guardian Online Education where the latest  headline is UK universities are wary of getting on board the mooc train.  MOOC should win a prize for the unlikeliest, and possibility ugliest, acronym of 2012. Putting that to one side, MOOCs, and the philosophy behind them, cannot be ignored. The speed at which MOOCs are developing makes it almost certain the Massive Online Open Course bubble is going to burst but it’s not yet clear what will make that happen.

Hindsight is enhanced with time and it’s now over eight years since the closure of the UK e-University. Two key documents tell the story; The real story behind the failure of the UK e university  by Richard Garrett and Lessons to be learned from the failure of the UK e-university by Paul Bacsich.

Times have changed. The UK e-University was complex involving massive amounts of investment, partnerships, market research plus the building of a new technology platform, all with multiple drivers including hefce and the government. Compare this with MOOCs. User generated content and social media networks have revolutionised the internet in a very short space of time. Uploading content and enabling platforms for discussion and collaborative working has never been so easily achieved while the production and distribution of multimedia has been democratised.

We live in changing times and MOOCs reflect this. In 2004, an e-university was conceived of as a company following traditional organisational structure and practices. In 2012 that model has been thrown out of the window. Open education is becoming a reality for those with means of access. Open Educational Resources and publishing is making quality content freely available online. The UK e-University and MOOCs are polar opposites in philosophy and practice. Somewhere between the two is a workable model but we haven’t yet recognised quite how that will look.


MOOCs: here, there and everywhere…

MOOCs are everywhere. This week sees the start of a free MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) from the OER Foundation. Open Content Licensing for Educators runs from 3-14 December and is an online workshop designed for educators wanting to learn more about open education resources, copyright, and creative commons licenses. 293 people are currently registered from 58 different countries. You can register at

If you prefer a home grown MOOC, the Open Learning Design Studio’s ‘Learning Design for a 21st Century Curriculum’ is a 9 week course starting 10/01/13. Designed with further and higher education professionals with an interest in curriculum and learning design, the course has been funded by JISC as part of a benefits realisation programme and is intended to build on the success of the Open University Learning Design Initiative (OULDI) and other JISC funded curriculum design and delivery projects. Go to to find out more about the course and to register.

If you prefer a wider choice of subjects, Open Culture has a list of 185 MOOCs offered by leading universities. Most offer ‘certificates’ or ‘statements of completion.’

MOOCs are currently getting media coverage and the only way to have an informed judgement is to try one. As well as the links above, MOOCs are also offered at Udacity and Coursera. There must be something somewhere for everyone.

Free OERs and MOOCs

The presentation below was created to introduce students to the availability of free open educational resources and courses. It refers to the OU’s Open Learn, MIT and Coursera.  As I was recording the audio, Open Culture published a list of new courses, or MOOCs  (Massive Online Open Courses), for 2013 at If this were not enough to choose from, Open Culture link to a further 550 courses here

I’ve been looking at Coursera’s Modern and Contemporary American Poetry (see and recommend it to anyone wanting to know more about the history of US poetry from the 19th century onwards. There are a thousand alternatives including E-learning and Digital Cultures from the University of Edinburgh which starts in January 2013 and will explore how digital cultures and learning cultures connect, and what this means for e-learning theory and practice. Learning has never been so flexible or such fun!

The presentation below is best viewed with speakers or headphones.