NOTE: I HAVE A NUMBER OF POSTINGS I AM SENDING THAT DEAL
WITH "MASSIVE OPEN ONLINE COURSES" [MOOCS] THAT ARE
BEGINNING TO BE OFFERED. THEY WILL BRING THE READER UP TO DATE ON WHAT
MOOCS ARE, THE MAJOR "PLAYERS," THE MAIN "PLATFORMS"
AND THE IMPLICATIONS FOR EDUCATION. THESE WILL ARRIVE OVER THE NEXT
SEVERAL DAYS ... JPB
From The Chronicle of Higher Education:
What You Need to Know About MOOC's
Call it the year of the mega-class.
Colleges and professors have rushed to try a new form of online
teaching known as MOOC's-short for "massive open online
courses." The courses raise questions about the future of
teaching, the value of a degree, and the effect technology will have
on how colleges operate. Struggling to make sense of it all? On this
page you'll find highlights from The Chronicle's coverage of
What are MOOC's?
MOOC's are classes that are taught online to large numbers of
students, with minimal involvement by professors. Typically, students
watch short video lectures and complete assignments that are graded
either by machines or by other students. That way a lone professor can
support a class with hundreds of thousands of participants.
Why all the hype?
Advocates of MOOC's have big ambitions, and that makes some college
leaders nervous. They're especially worried about having to compete
with free courses from some of the world's most exclusive
universities. Of course, we still don't know how much the courses will
change the education landscape, and there are plenty of
These are like OpenCourseWare projects, right?
Sort of. More than a decade ago, the Massachusetts Institute of
Technology started a much-touted project called OpenCourseWare, to
make all of its course materials available free online. But most of
those are text-only: lecture notes and the like. Several colleges now
offer a few free courses in this way, but they typically haven't
offered assignments or any way for people who follow along to prove
that they've mastered the concepts. MOOC's attempt to add those
So if you take tests, do you get credit?
So far there aren't any colleges that offer credit for their MOOC's.
But some MOOC participants can buy or receive certificates confirming
their understanding of the material.
Who are the major players?
Several start-up companies are working with universities and
professors to offer MOOC's. Meanwhile, some colleges are starting
their own efforts, and some individual professors are offering their
courses to the world. Right now four names are the ones to know:
A nonprofit effort run jointly by MIT, Harvard, and
Leaders of the group say they intend to slowly add other university
partners over time. edX plans to freely give away the software
platform it is building to offer the free courses, so that anyone can
use it to run MOOC's.
A for-profit company founded by two computer-science
professors from Stanford.
The company's model is to sign contracts with colleges that agree to
use the platform to offer free courses and to get a percentage of any
revenue. More than a dozen high-profile institutions, including
Princeton and the U. of Virginia, have joined.
Another for-profit company founded by a Stanford
The company, which works with individual professors rather than
institutions, has attracted a range of well-known scholars. Unlike
other providers of MOOC's, it has said it will focus all of its
courses on computer science and related fields.
A non-profit organization founded by MIT and Harvard graduate
Khan Academy began in 2006 as an online library of short instructional
videos that Mr. Khan made for his cousins. The library-which has
received financial backing from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
and Google, as well as from individuals-now hosts more than 3,000
videos on YouTube. Khan Academy does not provide content from
universities, but it does offer automated practice exercises, and it
recently debuted a curriculum of computer science courses. Much of the
content is geared toward secondary-education students.
A for-profit platform that lets anyone set up a
The company encourages its instructors to charge a small fee, with the
revenue split between instructor and company. Authors themselves, more
than a few of them with no academic affiliation, teach many of the
SECOND POSTING to follow shortly.
Jerry P. Becker
Dept. of Curriculum & Instruction
Southern Illinois University
625 Wham Drive
Mail Code 4610
Carbondale, IL 62901-4610
Phone: (618) 453-4241 [O]
(618) 457-8903 [H]
Fax: (618) 453-4244