The Big Bang of MOOCs

What started off the MOOCs?

I got ideas from this history of Universe.

There are differences between the Big Bang of the Universe and that of the MOOCs, as the former was created by our God (for me as a Christian who believed it), and the latter is artificially created by human in this 21st century.

I found it intriguing to see the sudden explosion of xMOOCs, after a few years of cMOOCs.  In hindsight, I see the few years of development as incubation, where a number of concurrent initiatives took place, like Salman Khan using Youtube to post his video lectures, various universities attempting to break through online and distance education since the 2000s (Can Free Online Courses Transform the Higher Education Industry? 2012).

Over the years, many schools have attempted online education. Fathom, Columbia University’s for-profit online learning venture, shut down in 2003 just a few years after its launch. AllLearn, a similar effort backed by Yale, Princeton and Stanford, was founded in 2000 and closed in 2006.

Though the xMOOCs claimed to have been started with numerous initiatives like the Udacity, Coursera, edX, we could all trace their origins with some of the earlier attempts to reach out the global audience and learners, like the MIT Open Course Ware.

Why might Coursera or another of the new enterprises succeed where others have failed? For one, the technology has evolved. Video and audio are crisper. Desktop sharing tools and discussion boards are easier to navigate. There is greater access to Internet libraries. Course developers also have a more nuanced understanding of how people learn online and the best ways to present information in that format. Coursera, for example, slices lectures into digestible 10- or 15-minute segments and provides online quizzes as part of each section. Professors answer questions from students in online forums. This is a vast improvement from previous online education ventures that offered a less dynamic learning model where students watched canned lectures, with no interaction.

Image: Google.

MOOC images (300)

How are we able to piece these elements of MOOCs together?  That’s where I would trace back based on Complexity Education.


I ask: Why aren’t there many MOOCs created and developed by individuals (outside institutions)? Could “we” DIO” (do it ourselves)? Interest? We have so many experts and leading professors and professionals here. Isn’t it wonderful to tap into our and your collective and connective wisdom?

I wonder the extent of “truth” with “MOOCs need the reputation of an institution” to attract participants. Salman Khan started off his venture with his only efforts, though he got support from others to form Khan Academy later, whilst Sebastian Thrun, Peter Norvig, Andrew Ng and Daphne Koller all started off with Stanford Uni. George Siemens and Stephen Downes started off with Uni of Manitoba. The research question could be: How do people get attracted to MOOCs? Is it based on the reputation of professors or lecturers? Or the branding of the institutions or MOOCs? Or the content of MOOCs?

I have a few ideas about MOOC in mind. One that appeals most to our Community here, or a group of individuals who may have preferences on c or x MOOCs or a hybrid MOOC. A MOOC on MOOC would be challenging enough that even the best professors in the world might not have the answers straight away.

Other topics of interests:

1. The future of HE and MOOCs.

2. Assessment and Accreditation model of education based on MOOCs (c or x or hybrid, or a new MOOCs).

3. MOOCs and community creation and development – sustainability and research opportunities.

4. Participants views and experience in different MOOCs – and how these would shape MOOCs, institution and social communities – FB, twitter, and Google + etc.

5. Specific areas of interests – MOOCs in STEM, ARTS, Liberal Arts, Education and Philosophy – what sort of MOOCs would be needed?

6. Multi and cross disciplinary MOOCs that is relevant, innovative and creative, with multi-disciplinary experts and professors co-designing and creating with learners.

May I suggest to have a brainstorming of ideas here? I will include these into my blog post too.

MOOC completion and dropout

“Coursera Takes a Nuanced View of MOOC Dropout Rates – Wired Campus – The Chronicle of Higher Education” #MOOC

Complexity Theory in application – where constraints are “controlled” by the media & authority: positives are amplified, whilst negatives are dampened. MOOC drop out rates are high but that is not the point. There are more participants completing the course comparing to the entire course students in institutions for years! The question is: Could we compare MOOC with traditional in-house or online course?
Fabian Banga Perhaps we should not even think about MOOCs in terms of a class. So the drop out issue is immediately irrelevant.
Keith points out here:
The (only) point I am trying to make with this comparison (which has numerical significance, but says nothing about quality of education or utility), is that applying the traditional metrics of higher education to MOOCs is entirely misleading. MOOCs are a very different kind of educational package, and they need different metrics — metrics that we do not yet know how to construct.

A great many never intend to complete the course. Rather, their goal is to sample, in order to get a general sense of a subject or topic. In other words, they come looking for education. Pure and simple.

For those students, the issue of certification never arises. And thereby goes another myth about MOOCs: that they are doomed by the lack of a reliable accreditation.

I do think MOOCs need to be evaluated on different metrics from the online course offered on credits in institution, where accreditation is important.
Are there differences between a course and a class? Lisa Lane once commented on the difference. A class is more like a group, or community as in traditional institutional setting, with a boundary on membership. A course could be a community, but could also consist of a combination or group of classes, taken by communities or different schools etc. In the case of MOOCs, one of the critical points is: what evaluates “success” in a MOOC? For xMOOCs, you need to convince institutions, stakeholders, educators and learners that people actually improve on a number of dimensions of KPI (like reduced cost, increased completion rates, improved students’ learning and satisfaction, increased employers’ satisfaction, and improved teaching and innovative performance) with MOOCs compared with the mainstream or online options.
The venture capitalists and institutions would be especially interested in the outcomes, as they are the ones who would like to promote the branding and generate more business ventures out of these education opportunities. Drop out issue is like spraying “salt” on the “wounds” of MOOC. I noted that Sebastian Thrun pointed this salt as criticism in his presentation. May be the challenge still lies with the typical lurking or LPP (legitimate Peripheral Participation), or the lack of interaction with others in the MOOCs, or the apparent consumption mode only, without any significant “production” or return (as contribution) to the course that most people are concerned with. Would institution and education leaders be contended with a low completion rates (i.e. less than 15%) in MOOCs?
There are still a lot of challenges with MOOCs, especially relating to the assessment issue. If there are no formal assessment component in MOOCs, would that help in increasing the completion rate? Besides if we first set off a few criteria, where only those who claim and commit to complete the course in the first place be considered as enrolled students, then you could have 80-90% completion rate easily.  Every one who attempts the course at least with one or more viewing of video lectures, reading of artifacts or OER, or learning activity could be considered as successful completion of MOOC, if that is how we define success.