MOOCs – challenge and opportunity

moocMOOCs can only have been realised in a digital context, with people comming together in networking communities. They represent both a thret to and an opportunity for ordinary education. They could become important to improve teaching and to develop new distinctive missions for educational institutions (Weller, M., & Anderson, T. (2013). Digital resilience in higher education. European Journal of Open, Distance and E-Learning, 16(1), 53). There is of course some importand factors to take into consideration. Rita Kop (Kop, R. (2011). The challenges to connectivist learning on open online networks: Learning experiences during a massive open online course. The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, North America, 12, Jan. 2011. Available at: Accessed: 2014-11-26.) notes that learners in MOOCs “have to be confident and competent in using the different tools in order to engage in meaningful interaction”. However, an ordinary MOOC don’t have that many tools and the discussion mostly goes on in ordinary forums. She continues: ”It takes time for people to feel competent and comfortable to learn in an autonomous fashion, and there are critical literacies, … that are prerequisites for active learning in a changing and complex learning environment without the provision of too much organized guidance by facilitators.” Yes indeed, it takes time to feel confortable with autonomous learning and there are literacies to be learned. And the guidance – although important – is not always there. But I can’t find the ”complex learning environment ”. I find, for instance Courseras learning environment rather simple.

To me there are many things to take into account when starting up a MOOC.

Things to consider are (and here I to a large extent follow Tony Bates, What’s right and what’s wrong about Coursera-style MOOCs although he analyzis the Cousera platform (see more at:

  • Methods for informal peer assessment;

The question is if the methods used on MOOCs are that new we want them to be. Tony Bates thinks it is wrong to call them new, because – as he puts it – they consist to a large extent of old practises: ”information transmission, computer marked assignments and peer assessment”  based on ”behaviourist pedagogy”. This may not be new pedagogy even if the context is new. A problem of its own is to find working methods for the peer assessments for all those who also wants credits for their work. Is it possible to combine peer reviewing with educator/tutor reviewing and not dimishing the importance of peer reviewing?

  • What replaces the teacher/tutor;

The computer is said to personalize the learning. This is not quite true. The computer could take you through the course material on a path that is unique for you. However,  you will be treated not as a person, an individual, but as a non-person. To be personalized you need a person (teacher/tutor) who  is present in the discussions, with encouragement, and an understanding of an individual student’s needs.

  • How about credits for work done . . .;

Tony Bates has a critical and important point concerning global politics and MOOCs. He calls it: ”Myth 1: MOOCs increase access to higher education in developing countries” (see more at: and writes

”If Stanford or MIT gave credit for these courses to students from South Africa who succeeded in the exams, and then awarded them full degrees, then that might be different. But these elite universities continue to treat MOOCs as a philanthropic form of continuing education, and until these institutions are willing to award credit and degrees for this type of program, we have to believe that they think that this is a second class form of education suitable only for the unwashed masses.”

We do not want MOOCs to be educationen for ”unwashed masses”, neocolonialism in the digital age. The masses are calling for credits.

MOOCs are not courses as we are used to treat them. What’s going on in a MOOC could be best understood as popularizing research for ”the masses”. MOOCs then are Open Online Courses for the Masses Presenting Research in a Popularized way (OOCMPRP). And that may be good enough for me.  We need MOOCs to present research in a simple way.


3 reaktioner på ”MOOCs – challenge and opportunity

  1. Dear Kenneth, thank you for a very clever post on MOOCs. I agree with you on most of your arguments and I’m just writing down a trail of thought here that came to me while reading your post. I believe that MOOCs are indeed no threat to the universities. I’m not so sure that they are the solution to the problem with the low education of poor communities either. Instead, I think that people participating in MOOCs are mostly like you and me, already well educated persons with some digital skills that have the luxury of a little bit of extra time, just to satisfy their curiosity. Nothing wrong with this. But MOOCs are probably not making much difference in low-income countries yet. What do you think?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Without solving the problems with credits and payment I don’t think MOOCs can make any difference in those countries. To me this kind of questions is important because it tells me the story of the MOOCs even if MOOCs in the future could revolutionize education all over the world. But I find it hard to believe that the first priority for big companies developing this kind of global educational platforms will be to smooth out differences in income through education. Such a beautiful world would be nice.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you for a nice post Kenneth, I like how you conclude it, almost picturing the MOOCs bridging the gap between the scientific world and reality, (‘research for the masses’, as you mentioned).
    I think that is a very good way of framing it, different from the accademic world we are used to.
    I also believe that with time we will overcome the present situation in which MOOCs are followed almost exclusively by individuals that already hold a degree. I think that this ‘virtual’ world has to become just more familiar to all of us first. So I believe that time will tell.



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