The latest massively open course, offered by Stanford University on Artificial Intelligence is raising the question again. What exactly does a course need to be in order to be classified as a MOOC? There has been some discussion on this Google Plus thread started by George Siemens. Osvaldo challenges that the course itself is too structured to be MOOC.
So, I wonder, how do we define a MOOC? I think there are two ways we can do this, either literally as a "Massively Open Online Course" and look at each word in the definition to provide critical for inclusion, or we can go back to the roots of a MOOC and add that a MOOC must also be the realization of connectivism pedagogy – which adds additional criteria – specially those that define connectivism.
Let's start with the words that make up MOOC:
M – Massive – How do we define massive? How many student need attend (or sign up anyways) before we can qualify the course as a Massive course? Is 200 enough? Is 500 enough? or 1000?
O – Open – How do we define openness. Is openness about allowing anyone to take the course, or is there a requirement to remove barriers to access? Is it simply about saying "anyone can participate" or does it require the hosts to try to ensure that most people can participate (for example, ensuring that discussions take place in a forum that most people can access)? Does an open course need to only use open resources, or can it use a mix of material and still be considered open?
O – Online – I'm not sure there is much debate on this one. If it is available on the Internet, it is online. What about a mobile course, that has modules that can be downloaded? Is it OK as long as the material is accessible online in addition to whatever other mechanisms the hosts choose to provide.
C – Course – Now this is a big one. How much structure do you need to provide for it to be a "course"? What makes a MOOC a course rather than simply an online discussion?
Now, let's take a peek at connectivist principles (from Siemens 2005):
- Learning and knowledge rests in diversity of opinions.
- Learning is a process of connecting specialized nodes or information sources.
- Learning may reside in non-human appliances.
- Capacity to know more is more critical than what is currently known
- Nurturing and maintaining connections is needed to facilitate continual learning
- Ability to see connections between fields, ideas, and concepts is a core skill.
- Currency (accurate, up-to-date knowledge) is the intent of all connectivist learning
- Decision-making is itself a learning process. Choosing what to learn and the
meaning of incoming information is seen through the lens of a shifting reality.
While there is a right answer now, it may be wrong tomorrow due to alterations in
the information climate affecting the decision.
Adding connectivism as a criteria for something to be a MOOC, means the MOOC must:
- Actively seek out diverse opinions.
- Connect participants (nodes) with information.
- Encourage growth in individual knowledge.
- Nurture connections.
- Provide/solicit current information.
- All participants to choose what they learn.
So, using these criteria, all ask you, is it a MOOC? Is eduMOOC a MOOC? Is epCOP MOOC a MOOC? Is the new Stanford AI course a MOOC? Why or why not?