Today’s presentation will introduce you to a teaching-learning method known as MOOCs. I believe MOOCs will offer our teachers a unique way to integrate technology with teaching in a way that will engage students and expose them to a wider world of ideas and knowledge.
MOOC stands for Massive Open Online Course. It’s massive because it can have an unlimited number of learners working together. It’s open because anyone can participate. Traditional MOOCs are offered free of charge, unless they are taken for university credit. The work all takes place online, through a combination of social networking, wiki creation, real-time meeting in venues like Skype, and through audio and video podcasts. It’s a single-topic course, lasting from a few weeks to an entire semester.
MOOCs can be valuable to high school students, who can benefit from the larger exchange of ideas and knowledge available when networking expands beyond the school walls. Students learn through interactions, discussions, questioning what is found, and discovering new information. Collaborative teams are becoming more prevalent in the business world, so the MOOC level of interaction helps prepare students for real-world employment situations.Since MOOCs bring together learners from a wide variety of backgrounds and experiences, learning diversifies and provides fresh insight into the subject matter. The concept of “rhizomatic learning” illustrates the nature of MOOCs; just as plants often propagate through rhizomes in their root systems, networked learning provides fresh nodes of connection and encourages further exploration beyond the classroom.MOOCs require a higher level of independent learning than traditional lecture-test instruction. Students learn that the knowledge they acquire is their own responsibility: if they want to understand a concept, they need to seek out answers and experience the learning for themselves.
Since the beginning of MOOCs, there have been many iterations of the model, with large universities offering what is now called an xMOOC, which is more closely aligned with traditional courses in its structure. These often use the more common professorial lecture in a larger scale than can be achieved in a classroom setting. cMOOCs, on the other hand, are open to knowledge sharing from ordinary participants as well as the course facilitators. Anyone with knowledge to share is welcome to do so. As you can see by the illustration, each letter in the acronym MOOC has been defined in different ways by different MOOC designers and users. We will look at the specifics of how MOOCs would work in the high school setting in a few minutes.
MOOCs have a brief history, but the concept has become so popular that its use has spread throughout the world, both within academic circles and among independent learner groups. The MOOC model is based on the Connectivist learning theory, which demonstrates how learning occurs through connections with others. MOOCs throughout the Internet world have grown from the first in 2008 to a place five years later where there are MOOCs or facsimiles of MOOCs available on nearly every topic imaginable, with participants from around the globe. Last year the New York Times pronounced 2012 as the “Year of the MOOC” in education.
Like most innovations, MOOCs have gone through various stages to reach their current rate of adoption. However, the sequence of events usually sees persuasion as the second stage. In the case of MOOCs, a decision to go forward with the model was made when the first MOOC was presented. Dave Cormier’s videos worked to persuade more development of MOOCs for the wider world. By 2012, MOOCs were offered in high enough numbers that it can be said confirmation stage has been achieved.
MOOCs have not yet reached saturation; with Udemy and P2PU open to new courses from anyone who wishes to design one, more are added every day. In the diffusion of innovations, a technology is considered to have reached “critical mass” when it adopted by approximately 20% of the target user population. MOOCs reached critical mass some time in 2010, and have grown at an astonishing rate since then. If the trend continues, MOOCs will be part of the educational process in most schools within a very few years.
Stephen Downes’ original model for MOOC success contains four essential elements. The first is Autonomy. In the traditional MOOC, students choose how deeply they want to participate in the various activities. They may elect to engage in all the live conversations, connect through social networking with other learners, or simply to view each week’s facilitator presentation and then perform some of the hands-on activities. Diversity is a key element in the MOOC’s learning model because it ensures a wide variety of experiences and cultural differences all contribute to the whole.Openness indicates the free and widely available nature of the MOOC materials and experiences. Downes is a strong advocate of free and open education for all, including free books, videos, and other assets. Above all, interactivity is necessary for a truly successful MOOC. There is no exchange of ideas and knowledge without interaction among the participants. Facilitators of MOOCs will often use compelling questions or offer controversial comments in order to encourage learner responses and interactions. Exchanges take place within chat rooms, through social networking pages, live video meetings, and online collaboration in wikis and other editable websites.
MOOCs offer opportunities to take course content to new levels of cognitive experience. Rather than simply memorizing and testing on information, MOOC models encourage a personal journey of exploration on the topic being discussed. As students become more familiar with the ways of using MOOC networking and collaboration, they will spend more time finding personal applications for the information, evaluating content for appropriate contributions to the knowledge base, and eventually creating their own content to share forward.
The nature of MOOCs produces a number of pros and cons. cMOOCs are usually free, while xMOOCs are usually provided at cost; where these are offered for college credit, sometimes the cost will be prohibitive for the average person. Some colleges have opened their MOOCs to non-credit participants, which holds closely to the original MOOC model.Learning in a MOOC is much less formal than the traditional lecture-test method of teaching. Students work at their own paces and in collaboration with others in whatever time is agreeable to all. A drawback to the online-only venue can be the lack of in-person engagement, but MOOCs often develop local cohorts of participants, particularly when those learners live close to each other geographically. No expensive materials are needed, beyond computer and internet access. While this could be a hindrance for those who have not bridged the “digital divide” yet, such facilities are available in nearly every library, and most cell phones will offer internet access. Computer procedures can always offer technical difficulties, so it is up to facilitators to make sure their efforts are well prepared and undergo test runs.In MOOCs, students are encouraged to share work and to collaborate with others to enhance learning. Some educators believe this sets up MOOCs for academic dishonesty issues, but where knowledge is free and open, dishonesty is not a great problem. The point of MOOC interaction is not to own knowledge but to share it with others.Some MOOCs are facilitated by leading scholars in their fields. This offers MOOC participants the opportunity to learn from some of our greatest minds, without the expense of the major university’s tuition. One factor that can be both a pro and a con is the responsibility students have for their own learning. Students who are accustomed to having their knowledge handed to them in bits may find the independent nature of the MOOC difficult to manage at first. With practice, however, most students will realize that they get more benefit when they put in more effort, and they will spend more time in MOOC participation.
Research on the effectiveness of MOOCs as a pedagogical tool is still in its infancy. One study showed that fewer than thirty solid research articles have been published as of 2012. However, the trend toward MOOC research has grown significantly since the first published study in 2008, showing that the trend has garnered interest on the part of academics.
Because of the ages of the students and the limitations of high school instructors, there are some differences in the way MOOCs would be taught at this high school. College-level MOOCs can be open to thousands, or even hundreds of thousands of participants. For our purposes, we will collaborate with two or three other high schools.College MOOC students work independently, with collaboration taking place within the online environment. High school students will work collaboratively in class to prepare for their online experiences, and then online with the other MOOC participants. Open college-level MOOCs assume a certain level of technological ability, as the courses include using online chats, streaming videos, wiki creation and editing, and other skills. For our purposes, instructors will be available to coach the learners in any of these technologies where they have difficulty. Finally, while college-level MOOCs generally do not grant any credit unless tuition is paid, all students participating in the MOOCs in our school will earn credits in the subject area covered.
The costs of using MOOCs can be offset by much of a school’s existing computer network. In the case noted here, this independent school has sufficient support to deal with any ancillary costs that may appear in the implementation of the project. However, costs should not hinder most schools from participating in MOOCs, even if computer access is limited to a few machines.Note to reviewers: This high school is fictitious, and assumes private school similarity in funding. Parents are dedicated to the school’s mission, so small additional costs for technology fees will not be prohibitive to implementation.
The school administrators are already on board with the idea of using MOOCs as an instructional tool. They are the original change agents, and they are eager to share this idea with teachers. A teacher in-service would serve as an opportunity to present the MOOC. Those teachers who are always looking for ways to innovate in the classroom, and those who are technologically “savvy” will likely be the first to embrace the model for their own classes. The administrators will establish a cohort with those early adopters and help them form a working group to develop MOOC activities for their classes.The administrators understand that there are some teachers who are reluctant to embrace change, or who are hesitant to use technology in education. The vice principal will act as an ambassador to this group, listening to their concerns and explaining how the MOOC model can work with a relatively short learning curve for teachers. The early adopters will also be encouraged to discuss MOOCs with the late- or non-adopters, particularly after the early adopters have tried a MOOC module in the class with success.
Administrators will work with the teacher learning group to determine ways to use MOOCs as part of regular instructional experience. Teachers will be asked to offer suggested content that they believe would be enhanced by a MOOC module for explorative learning. The administration will also ensure that the classes holding MOOCs have all the technological tools they need, such as computer workstations (no fewer than one station per three students), a dedicated area of the network provided for MOOC activity, and any software the MOOC may need, which should be minimal.To stabilize the adoption of MOOCs, a mid-year in-service will allow successful MOOC adopters to share their experiences with the rest of the faculty. They will also present “lessons learned” to ensure that any challenges met during implementation of MOOCs have been addressed and corrected. By the end of the first year, the administration will consider MOOCs to be a regular part of the lesson planning process, and teachers will be allowed and encouraged to make use of MOOCs as often as they deem appropriate in their strategies for the coming year.
MOOCs are already in use in some of the major universities in the United States and Canada, as well as within many high-performing school districtsMOOCs prepare students for a real-world future where technological abilities and experience in networking will be the norm.They expand course content by introducing information not available in textbooks, and encourage learning through exploration and collaboration.Most important to the students of GHS, MOOCs open the world’s resources to everyone. There is a vast store of knowledge on the Internet – and it is available to our students through the innovative use of MOOCs in the classroom.
This concludes our presentation on MOOCs. I believe the MOOC is an innovation that can only bring positive results to this high school.I will be happy to field any questions at this time.
MOOCs in the High
How They Work to Connect Learners
What is a MOOC?
– Uses the Internet to connect
with others on a global scale
– No charge for students
– Learning together in digital
– A MOOC Covers a
Why use MOOCs?
• Networked learning offers opportunities to share ideas,
exchange knowledge, and work in collaborative teams
• Learning takes place through interaction, questioning,
searching for information, and discussing what has been
• Collaborative work prepares students for real-world
• Diverse learners bring fresh experiences from their varied
• “Rhizomatic” learning: just as rhizomes in plant roots
propagate new plants, networked learning creates new
nodes of information and higher levels of interaction among
participants (Cormier, 2012)
• Requires independent learning and encourages students to
become responsible for their own knowledge.
The brief history of MOOCs
• 2004: George Siemens & Stephen Downes develop theory of
Connectivism, “the thesis that knowledge is distributed across a
network of connections, and therefore that learning consists of the
ability to construct and traverse those networks (Downes, 2012,
• 2008: First MOOC presented at University of Manitoba with ~ 2200
• 2010: Dave Cormier videos about MOOCs added to YouTube
• 2011: MOOC for college prep skills helps freshmen prepare for
college requirements (Cormier, 2011)
– Harvard’s first MOOC has 370,000 registered students
– 2012: Coursera launches from Stanford; offers first xMOOCs
– New York Times calls 2012 “The Year of the MOOC” Pappano,
• 2013: cMOOCs and xMOOCs too numerous to count accurately
2011: MOOC for
of the MOOC
MOOC Adoption S-Curve
Represents growth in MOOCs from 1 in 2008
to over 3000 in 2013, including xMOOCs
2013: Over 3,000 MOOCs
Downes’ MOOC Model
Four essential elements for a successful MOOC:
• Autonomy: students decide how much to participate
• Diversity: students come from all backgrounds,
different countries, different experiences
• Openness: MOOCs should be free or of such low
cost that nearly anyone can participate
• Interactivity: Chats, social networking, video
MOOCs and Pedagogy
This graphic represents the correlation
between online learning tools used in MOOCs
and Bloom’s Taxonomy (Morrison, 2012).
Pros and Cons of MOOCS
• Free unless college credit is
• Learning is informal and at
student’s own pace
• Computer and internet
access are only resources
• Students can share work,
critique others and receive
• Great instructors without
high tuition of host school
• xMOOCs involve costs,
• Limited real-world
engagement (face time)
• Technical difficulties
• Academic dishonesty
• Students must learn to be
responsible for their own
Research on MOOCs
A comprehensive study of literature on MOOC
research reveals that while studies are increasing in
number, solid research has not been widely published
(Liyanagunawardena, Adams, and Williams, 2013).
How MOOCs would work in our
high school classrooms
• Participants from two or three high school
groups throughout the U.S. and Canada
• Students working collaboratively both in
classroom and online
• Students will be guided and receive coaching
if needed to become technologically capable.
• High school credits will be earned.
Cost of Using MOOCs
• Content and learning opportunities
available on Internet without cost
• School’s existing Course Management
System (CMS) can be adapted to MOOC
• Existing computer lab can be used for
students working on MOOC modules
• Part-time IT specialist may be needed to
troubleshoot network issues or
• Goodnight High School has sufficient
resources to offer MOOCs for class
content free or at very low cost
1. Principal & vice principal present MOOC model to classroom
a. Demonstrate ways to use MOOCs as part of instructional
b. Create cohort with teachers who embrace MOOC ideals
2. Establish teacher learning group to develop content
3. Discuss problems of MOOC model with teachers who have
concerns about MOOC success
4. Encourage early adopters to discuss pros of MOOCs with
a. “Laggards” likely to be older teachers and those unfamiliar
with social networking, use of internet for research.
Change Agents (continued)
5. Administrators will work with the original cohort to put MOOC
modules into existing course content
a. Teachers suggest topics that they believe will translate well
into a MOOC activity
b. Administrators will ensure that classrooms are equipped with
appropriate technology resources (workstations, dedicated
network drive, software as required)
6. At mid-year, a second in-service will review MOOC successes
a. Ask enthusiastic early adopters to present their experiences
to the faculty
b. Encourage MOOC adoption by more reluctant faculty
7. By end of first year, allow teachers to incorporate MOOC
modules into classes as part of normal lesson planning process
Should Adopt MOOCs
• Innovative learning method already in
use by Harvard, Stanford, and other
university high schools and high-
performing school districts (Locke, 2013)
• Prepares students for real-world
experiences using technology and
• Expands course content
• Encourages learning through exploration
• Opens the world’s knowledge resources
to GHS students
Chen, C. (2012, April 18). Coursera launches humanities courses. The Stanford
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