Making Sense of MOOCs

The Commonwealth of Learning in partnership with UNESCO has recently released ‘Making Sense of MOOCs – a guide for policy makers in developing countries’.  The COL/UNESCO partnership reflects the recognition in the recent Incheon Declaration that MOOCs can support the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.  While the report is written for a developing world audience, a great deal of the content will be of interest to anyone in Scotland interested in developing free online courses.

The first two chapters are concerned with definitions and the benefits and limitations of MOOCs.  The authors describe MOOCs as a form of open education offered for free through online platforms. 
They go on to suggest that what distinguishes a MOOC from other online courses is that:

  • It is designed for, in theory, an unlimited number of participants and as such is related to the scalability of the education service provider. 

  • It is accessible at no charge. 

  • It requires no entry qualifications. 

  • All elements of the course provision are provided fully online. 


There is a useful discussion of what is understood by ‘open’ in open education.  The authors restrict their definition of Open Educational Resources (OER) to apply to materials.  So in their view MOOCs may or may not be openly licensed but if the latter it is the materials that constitute the course that form OER. Our experience with the development and use of openly licensed courses in the OEPS project suggests that this distinction is worth further discussion.

In later chapters concerned with learner centred approaches and reuse and adaptation of courses there is a very welcome focus on designing MOOCs that recognise the situated and social character of learning.  The links between this focus and Open Educational Practice (OEP), which are understood to be practices, which remove barriers to engagement, are worth teasing out further.

I’d strongly recommend a look at this report to anyone with an interest in open education.

Pete Cannell

Posted on August 1, 2016, in article, Report and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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