The MOOC Phenomenon

This post is both a brief summary of thoughts and my reflects on the MOOCs movement which I have observed and continue to observe as a participant, including talks I have attended. If you are in Learning Technology (or even if you are not), then you will not have failed to see the rise of the MOOC (that’s Massive Open Online Courses). Here’s a video explaining the concept too.

The Annual Draper’s Lecture at the Teaching & Learning Conference at Queen Marys, University of London was the first MOOC themed talk I attended on the 16th January, presented by Vice Chancellor of the Open University, Martin Bean, entitled “MOOCs, Napster and the Tyranny of Conventional Wisdom: Where’s the Next Giant Leap for Higher Education?” The talk highlights many of the challenges to the higher education section in the UK and some examples of how other industries where change has been slow have seen their customers go elsewhere.

The next time I heard about MOOCs was at the British Educational Trade and Technology Show (BETT Show), in a more practical discourse. I was due to give a presentation on Blended Learning in a Staff Development context and saw most of Professor Curt Bonk‘s presentation entitled ‘Taking leadership in mystery of MOOCs and the mass movement toward open education”. The range of ideas for MOOCs from taster courses through to remedial courses was breath-taking and very long!

These talks and the movement in general highlight two things – one, there’s a huge amount of interest from many sections of the education community and two, that there’s a lot of scope for this type of set up in traditional education but like many things in technology, it’s often the concept of something that changes into a more marketable entity in the long run from an initial concept. The jury may be out on the pedagogic value of the MOOC for the student and other such concerns, the online education community will have to see what the research finds and what evolves; for now this is a phenomenon and one that’s not going away anytime soon!

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