MOOC: 3 things should know about MOOC participants

We know a lot about MOOC. But we never got to know the information on the people who took MOOCs and how they engaged with the courses. In this post, I highlight three key information as revealed by the MIT and Harvard on the first 17 edX MOOCs. This report is the result of the pain taking efforts of MIT and Harvard to analyze about 20 gigabytes of data per course and interviewing faculty and course teams. It throws more light on the students’ engagement with course content and demographic information. We have come to come to know interesting characteristics of those who take MOOC.

Demographic info
The typical course registrants were young men with an average age of 26 or older with a bachelor’s degree forming (31 percent) almost one third of the total MOOC participants. Another 33 percent completed high-school education. A whopping 72 percent of participants was from countries other than the US.

harvardmitcourses reportAttrition rates
While confirming the earlier information on the attrition rates, it provides a new information on the time window attrition rate on its increment and decrement. It was found that almost 50 percent of people leave the course within the first two weeks of the course, and the next two weeks, it declined to 16 percent.

Engagement with content
While only a small percent of people complete the courses, half of them generally view course content without engaging in any online interaction and discussion forums. Interestingly, more than 4000 registrants participated in multiple MOOCs. A small percent of participants deeply engaged, as the courses progressed.

As this report provides us more data on the attrition rates, demographies and students’ engagement with MOOC content, it also enhances the opportunity to delve deeper into the phenomenon of digital revolution in education and more importantly to further research in student learning. Of course, it will also aid in considering design issues for MOOCs in the future.


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MOOC: The Beginnings

The origin of MOOC can be linked to the rise of Open Educational Resources (OER) and Open Course Ware (OCW) in the early 21st century. Open content and courseware like lecture videos were freely made available. MIT and UK Open University were pioneers in this initiative.

Dave Cromier, George Siemens, Stephen Downes, Alec Couros and others worked on the open online learning.The first true MOOC was Connectivism and Connective Knowledge (CCK08) by George Siemens and Stephen Downes. It was offered to some odd 20 campus-based students at the University of Manitoba, Canada, along with 2300 registered online students. But what triggered the explosion of MOOC was the video lectures for self-learning by Salman Khan, the founder of Khan Academy and the online version of Stanford’s Artificial Intelligence course in 2011.

As discussed in the previous post, there are different types of MOOCs namely connectivist MOOC (cMOOC), extended MOOC (xMOOC) and task-based MOOC. (You may want to refer to the previous post on types of MOOCs). The current huge media attention is mostly on xMOOCs which are offered by various higher education institutions and organizations in the US. Some of the key players are  Coursera, edX, NovoED, Udacity and Udemy. There are many newer organizations joining the race on MOOCs. In a later post, I delve more into MOOC providers.

MOOCingae-timelineMOOC augments the lessons learnt from earlier experiments done in open learning. Placing MOOC in the timeline helps to understand not only its history but also its various features, and why they are offered the way they are offered now.

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

Flavors of MOOC

The acronym MOOC often causes confusion as to what it means to be open but not massive,  massive but not open, and online but not MOOC. It is a misnomer. For more details on the term MOOC as misnomer, you may follow David Wiley.

Given the huge media attention to some of the MOOCs offered by elite institutions like MIT and , Stanford and organizations like edX, Udacity, Coursera and Udemy, they are dubbed as MOOC in general. These MOOCs have structured content with video lectures, assignments and evaluations weaved into a tight-semester-like schedule. Most video lectures are embedded with an automatic system to test learners’ understanding as they work through the content.  Some courses also experimentStanford-first mooc AI with peer assessment, providing a set rubric against which peers evaluate each other’s work. Of course, there are discussion forums to facilitate interaction with other participants of the course and to discuss course-related learning issues. But the central characteristics of these MOOCs are content-based and instructor-led lessons. They are named as xMOOC to differentiate it from the earlier version of MOOC which in turn got termed as cMOOC. The first xMOOCs was Stanford’s Artificial Intelligence by Peter Norvig and Sebastian Thrun of Google Corporation and Stanford University, respectively. It was offered in the fall of 2011 to about 160,000 enrolled students across the globe. Machine Learning, Introduction to Databases, and Introduction to Computer Science are other popular xMOOCs. There are hundreds of xMOOCs available in various fields of arts, humanities, science and technology.

CCK08 george siemenscMOOC is connectivist MOOC which emphasizes on the personal and subject aspects of participants connected together to create meaning, build knowledge and navigate their own web of connections. Since these types of MOOOCs are personal and subjective, participants can set their own learning goals and type of engagement with others. The main focus is not on content but sharing ideas, being networked and connected. The first of this type of MOOC was the CCK08 – Connectivism and Connective Knowledge by George Siemens and Stephen Downes. (The linked website has a link to Dr. George Siemens’ video CCK08.) This course was opened up for free to anyone who wanted to participate in this. About 2300 students registered for this course. Several others followed the suit – PLENK2010, LAK11, MobiMOOC (2011), and eduMOOC (2011), and a repeat of CCK08 in 2009 & 2011, to name a few.

MOOC types- LisaThere are other MOOCs which are classified as task based MOOCs. These MOOCs are designed to complete specific tasks by participants. The participants may be guided by instruction materials, feedback and group works. ds106 Digital Story Telling  is an example of this type. You may refer Lisa’s post which details the different types of MOOCs

In addition to the above classification, Donald Clark categorizes  MOOCs based on pedagogy. The list includes: transferMOOC, madeMOOC, synchMOOC, asynchMOOC, adaptiveMOOC, groupMOOC, connectivistMOOC, and miniMOOC.

Each type of MOOCs is produced for a specific context and purpose. Each of them offers a tremendous opportunity for learning. Each of them can  enhance learning experience depending the type of engagement and knowledge one likes to experiment with. Understanding the background of each type of MOOCs, I believe, will better prepare the person to utilize them well.

MOOC: Opening the gates of knowledge to one and all

We are witnessing the digital revolution in every sphere our of life, including education. Its impact in the arena of higher education is undeniable, with the introduction of MOOC, often considered as a disruptive technology in higher educations. It’s a buzzword in the higher education circle and is attracting huge media attention. So, what is a MOOC?

MOOCimage-what it isMOOC is Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) which are offered on a network platform to anyone who has access to internet and is willing to learn. It’s a course in which hundreds of thousands of learners from various parts of the world participate in a structured, but distributed manner online. The term MOOC was coined by Dave Cromier of the University of Prince Island and Bryan Alexander of the National Institute for Technology Education to  the course on Connectivism and Connective Knowledge, popularly known as CCK08 after the initials of the course title and the year (2008) it was offered. The course was led by George Siemens of Athabasca University, Canada and Stephen Downes of National Research Council, Canada. 

The key aspect of MOOC, as Dave Cromier would emphasize, is connectivity and collaboration with others. Today, hundreds of MOOCs are offered by elite universities in the US and Europe. They are free, open to all and without formal accredit ions by MOOC providers.

However, it throws open the gates of knowledge to anyone, anytime and anywhere in the world. In fact, 2012 was named as the year of MOOC. It is growing in leaps and bounds. It is perceived as one of the most disruptive technology in higher education. Everyone is eagerly waiting to see what role MOOC will take in the future, especially in higher education. In any case, it has literally opened the gates of knowledge to everyone.

In the next few posts, I will trace its origin, characteristics and current trends.

Image Link: Dave Cromier defining MOOC

Welcome to the latest MOOC blog

Hello, and welcome to the latest Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) blog,,  a daily journal on its emerging trends in higher education.MOOC image

The goal of this blog is to take a hard look at the promises and perils of MOOC, a much media hyped disruptive technology in higher education, and glean resources on its current trends delivering knowledge freely to anyone, anytime and anywhere in the globe.  It will delve into its origin, proliferation, and debates on its future within in the arena of higher education. However, it will not evaluate courses and their content.

I will also jot  down my personal reflections as I participate in MOOCs and discuss interesting issues related to what it means to commit to self-paced online learning and to stay afloat in virtual learning communities.

As a strong proponent of technology-enabled teaching and learning, I am keenly interested in learning and exploring its dynamics with a special focus on technology disruption in the traditional  classrooms.

I welcome your valuable inputs and guidance to enrich my digital expedition in knowledge discovery.

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