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March 31, 2020
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June 30, 2020

Sparkling International Journal of Multidisciplinary Research Studies

Volume 3           Issue 1           January – March 2020           Pages 28-37

MOOCs AS A DIGITAL LEARNING PLATFORM

*Mary Queen V & **Vel Murugan P

*M.Ed. Scholar, Bishop Agniswamy College of Education, Muttom, Kanyakumari District, Tamil Nadu, India.

**Associate Professor, Bishop Agniswamy College of Education, Muttom, Kanyakumari District, Tamil Nadu, India.

Abstract


A MOOC is a Massive Open Online Course facilitated wholly online and designed to support an unlimited number of enrolments. It allow anyone, anywhere, to participate via video lectures, computer graded tests, and discussion forums. It is known by different variants in the cyberspace – online courses, open courseware, video lectures, online education, online studies, open educational resources etc.  The most famous of MOOC providers are coursera.org, edx.org, canvas.net, udacity.com, open2study.com, online.standford.edu/courses, openculture.com, alison.com, iversity.com, khanacademy.com, swayam.gov.in, etc. It brings new opportunities for innovation in higher education that will allow institutions and academics to explore new online learning models and innovative practices in teaching and learning.

Keywords: MOOC, open online course, education, teaching, learning digital learning platform.


Introduction

A MOOC is a Massive Open Online Course facilitated wholly online and designed to support an unlimited number of enrolments (Physiopedia, n.d). It allows anyone, anywhere, to participate via video lectures, computer-graded tests, and discussion forums (Matthew B. Hoy., 2014). It is open to everyone without entry qualifications, and offer a full/complete course experience online for free (Brouns et al., 2014). The term MOOCs was originally coined by the Canadian academician named Dave Cormier of the University of Prince Edward Island in 2008 for a large online class taught by George Seimens of Athabasca University and Stephen Downes of Manitoba University, Canada. It is known by different variants in the cyberspace – online courses, open courseware, video lectures, online education, online studies, open educational resources etc (Umesh Arya, 2017). The most famous of MOOC providers are coursera.org, edx.org, canvas.net, udacity.com, open2study.com, online.standford.edu/courses,openculture.com, alison.com, iversity.com, khanacademy.com, etc. The Indian government has recently launched an Indian focused MOOC platform termed as SWAYAM (Study Webs of Active Learning for Young Aspiring Minds). It is the world’s largest online free e-learning platform portal initiated by the government and designed to achieve the three cardinal principles of education policy viz., access, equity and quality. Seven national coordinators have been appointed to ensure best quality content i.e. NPTEL for engineering, UGC for post-graduate education, CEC for undergraduate education, NCERT and NIOUS for school education, IGNOU for out of the school and IIMB for management studies (Swayam, n.d.).

Elements of MOOCs

  1. Massive: An online course designed for a large number of participants (unlimited number of participants). The course is designed such that the effort required to provide all services does not increase significantly as the number of participant’s increases.
  2. Open: Course can be accessed by anyone anywhere as long as they have an internet connection. Open as in freedom of place, pace and time. The course can be completed for free and open to everyone without entry qualifications.
  3. Online: The full course is available through the internet i.e. it’s online.
  4. Course: The course offers a full course experience including educational content, facilitation interaction among peers (including some but limited interaction with academic staff), activities/tasks, quizzes, tests, including feedback, some kind of (non-formal) recognition options, a study guide/syllabus, an examination and a certificate of completion. (Ponmozhi, 2017).

Salient Features of MOOCs

The following are the important salient features of MOOCs.

  1. Course participants are likely to distribute all over the world.
  2. Course content is not located in any one place but found all over the web.
  3. The online classroom is one of many hubs where interaction occurs, which can also include personal blogs or portfolios, websites, social networking sites, and more.
  4. The courses do not have specific requirements, but participants are required to stay up to date with rough schedules.
  5. Participants and instructors aggregate, remix and repurpose the content during the course.
  6. Most MOOCs are free; there may be a fee if the participant is working toward a form of accreditation.

Characteristics of MOOCs

MOOCs are a flexible and open form of self-directed, online learning designed for mass participation. There are no fees or entry requirements and no formal academic credit is available. While completion rates are low (on average ten per cent) due to varying motivations for enrolling in a MOOC, absolute numbers of participants who complete are usually high. While access to the course material is free, MOOC platform providers often offer certificates of completion at a cost. MOOC platforms provide institutions with cloud-based hosting environments for delivering courses, offering scale and functionality while the institution provides the course material and reputational value. (Czerniewicz, L., et al., 2015). The characteristics of MOOCs are as follows:

  1. Educator involvement: While educators are involved in the design and production of the MOOC, their involvement during the running of the course is minimised because of the lack of formal assessment or formal academic credit.
  2. Engagement: It is possible to engage with a large number of students via discussion forums.
  3. Re-watchable: Students are able to watch and re-watch lecture videos.
  4. Scale: MOOCs are designed to reach a large number of students.
  5. Assessable: Most MOOCs include in-video, concept-check questions, with immediate feedback, as well as peer review.
  6. Customised learning experience: Participants can learn at their own pace and choose which material they engage with.
  7. Liberty of choice: MOOCs allow learners to choose where, when, how, with whom and even what to learn. There is a maximum power of learners to choose what they want to learn.
  8. Diversity: MOOCs get a variety for learners from all corners of the world. This helps in getting diverse thinking, diverse readings. It also helps in the quality of discussions and learning environment.
  9. Connectedness: In the digital era, people are constantly connected and interact with each other. These connections and interactivity lead to knowledge building.
  10. Self-paced: MOOC’s provide the autonomy to learners to decide how and when they like to learn. MOOC’s contain documents for self- learning, videos, links, discussions, quizzes, debates that can be accessed anytime by the learners.
  11. Badges and Certificates: Most MOOCs award some kind of recognition for successful completion of a course, based on a final computer-marked assessment. Digital badges or certificates are validated indicator of accomplishment, skill, quality, or interest that can be earned in many learning environments.
  12. Lifelong learning: Learners improve their lifelong learning skills, as participating in a MOOC enables learners to think about their own learning and knowledge absorption.

Categories of MOOCs

MOOCs can be differentiated in terms of the strategic goals that they aim to address. A primary distinction is between inward-facing courses (aimed at existing students) and outward-facing courses (aimed at participants with no connection to the university) (Czerniewicz, L., et al., 2015).

 

Fig. 1 Categories of MOOCs

  1. Gateway Skills: Aimed at prospective undergraduate students, with the intention of preparing/upskilling prospective students for a particular area of study.
  2. Graduate Literacies: Provides students entering postgraduate level of study with opportunities to develop the necessary skills, such as proposal writing, research methods and statistical analysis.
  3. Professional Showcase: Focuses on professional certification and professional development.
  4. Teaching Showcase: General interest course in which an institution’s teaching is showcased, with the aim of raising the appeal or reputation of the institution.
  5. Research Showcase: Aimed at raising the appeal of the institution as a centre for research excellence. (Anit Kumar Srivastava 2019).

TYPES OF MOOCs

cMOOC: It stands for connectivist MOOC. It is based on the connectivist theory of education where connectivism, openness, and participatory teaching are the principles participants share their views, resources etc. on a particular topic and send it to the instructor. The latter sorts the material and organizes it into a sharable e-mail with embedded HTML links and send it to all the participants. They share information with each other and engage in joint experiences. This builds a “connective ecosystem” of the learning resources under a common platform. cMOOCs are centered around a community of students (Chana Goldberg,  2013).

xMOOC: It stands for extended MOOC. It is based on traditional classroom structure. It is used on the large MOOC platforms and is based on a format of minimal, asynchronous support, with a subject expert recording content and planning assessment (i.e. multiple choice quizzes, programming assignments or peer-review exercises) for the student cohort to ingest at a time of their choosing. The aim of this design approach is to allow the platform to repeatedly run the same classes throughout the year on a rolling recruitment basis, with the best performing students from the previous cohort asked to act as community teaching assistants for the subsequent cohort – providing forum moderation, technical support and limited academic guidance. This method revolves around the traditional college teaching model with video recorded lectures along with quizzes and other evaluation assignments and verifiable certificates or statement of accomplishment delivered online through some MOOC providing website. It is more of a behaviourist approach. It uses the open source LMS (Learning Management System) for course management. MOOCs are centered around a facilitator or teacher (Chana Goldberg,  2013).

Fig. 2 Types of MOOCs

SPOC: Small Private Online Courses are similar to BOOCs, in that the class sizes are limited, but the student teacher interactions are more closely modelled after traditional classroom interactions. They are similarly referenced in the “flipped classroom” model (Physiopedia, n.d.).

VOOC: Vocational Open Online Courses are based on vocational pedagogies, where practical tasks and procedures can be shown in real world examples along with experts as ‘talking heads’ providing advice.

NOOC: Nano Open Online Course is a short MOOC with less than 20 hours learning content usually one skill area of knowledge, one concept, or competency is taught in a NOOC. The learners are assessed and certified on a single competency, skill or concept. It seems to be the buzzword with many institutions and organizations as they do not prefer long duration courses but short skill-based courses which will help their students learn more in a short span of time. Students too are interested in something new and which offers knowledge in short.

MOOR: Massive Open Online Research is an online research and development open-access platform or higher education study program aiming at unlimited participation via the internet.

COOC: Corporate Open Online Courses designed for employee training or continuing education typically subsidized or uniquely accredited by employers.

BOOC: Big Open Online Courses are similar to MOOCs but limited to a smaller number of students; typically 50 (Physiopedia, n.d.).

SMOC: Synchronous Massive Online Courses differ from xMOOCs in that the lectures are broadcast live requiring students to log in at specific times in order to hear the lectures (Physiopedia, n.d.).

FLOOC: Many MOOCs are being designed and conducted to teach, practice and support foreign languages especially in non-native learners’ context. These MOOCs are referred to as FLOOC (Foreign Language Open Online Course).

DOCC: Distributed Online Collaborative Courses as an alternative to MOOCs. They are oriented toward collaborative, institutional activities in which each institution organizes a course around core learning resources (Physiopedia, n.d.).

HOOC: Hybrid Open Online Course is a version of a flipped classroom, which is used to enhance collaboration between MOOC participants and on-campus students.

POOC: Personalized Open Online Course which provides non-standardized education for the masses by customizing and adjusting the content to its users. With technology, learning can be personalized according to students’ characteristics, preferences and activities.

LOOC: Little Open Online Courses offer standardized assessments, grading and credits.

wMOOC: It stands for wrapped MOOC. A MOOC that is adapted for paying students or included as part of an existing course for enrolled students.

mMOOC: It stands for mini MOOC. Mini-MOOCs are short courses with only one or two clearly defined learning objectives.

tMOOC: It stands for transfer MOOC. This type of MOOC would work best for training when the main goal is knowledge transfer, such as employee orientation and business etiquette training.

madeMOOC: It tends to be more innovative by making effective use of video and interactive material, avoiding talking heads in favour of Khan Academy or Udacity hand onboard sequences.

asynchMOOC: The asynch MOOC courses are completely open, with no fixed start or end dates, and have an elastic evaluation and course-task deadlines. Since it can start at any time and place, it is ideal for people with overloaded schedules and in cases where synchronous participation is difficult, such as for employees in different time zones. This flexibility may help reduce high dropout rates.

Content-based MOOC: Content-based MOOCs are those with a mass registration of students, taught by professors from major universities and using automatic evaluation methods.

Flex-MOOC: Flex-MOOC is a learner-centered MOOC that allows students to create learning paths aligned with their strengths, needs and preferences by selecting modules. Flex-MOOCs provide content in modules that allow learners to control the sequence and timeline of content presentation.

Adaptive MOOCs: Gates Foundation has entered a new area of MOOCs by offering personalized learning experience to each participant using adaptive algorithms. The back end technology-driven algorithm is so advanced that, instead of linear learning pattern branched learning is possible according to the speed, intelligence and capabilities of the learner. Courses are being continuously updated using analytics.

Blended MOOC: This is the upcoming kind of MOOC. Being an educationist, one always strives to give best to their students. Blended MOOCs utilize both, face to face as well as a virtual environment. Flipped classroom approach is used in this type of MOOC. Outside class time, students take a MOOC imported from off-campus, then meet in class with local faculty for discussions, problem-solving, group projects, and lab work. Not only does this approach give students more faculty and peer support, but it also solves some of the assessment and certification issues facing stand-alone MOOCs.

iMOOCs: Learner-centeredness, study flexibility, student interaction and digital inclusion are the main design principles of iMOOCs that are not common in other MOOC formats. These courses combine autonomous and self-directed learning with a strong social dimension and articulate the essential flexibility for the learner along with the structure needed to help understand the assignment. Course content can be accessed by anyone, but registration is required.

MOOC-Eds: Massive Online Open Courses for Educators are professional development experiences that engage participants in new technology-enabled learning opportunities that are becoming widely used for both adults and students. MOOC-Ed courses include core resources and supplemental materials around a specific topic, while also allowing for a great deal of personalization and flexibility. Because there is not a fixed path or a fixed curriculum everyone has to follow, learning can be self-directed, peer-supported, case study project-based.

Benefits of MOOCs

MOOC creates the opportunity for sharing ideas and knowledge and also helps to improving lifelong learning skills by providing easy access to global resources. It improves cross-cultural relationship which leads to collaboration between institution educators and learners locally and internationally. (Lal Kumar A.C., &  Rajesh Kumar M., 2019).  The most common benefits of MOOCs are (i) courses are offered for free, (ii) allowing individuals of any age group to join the course, (iii) courses are available to a vast and diverse audience across the globe, (iv) improving access to higher education, (v) learning takes place in a more informal setting., (vi) offers a flexible learning schedule, (vii) learners performance can be monitored easily, (viii) create connections and networks internationally, (ix) learner can connect across disciplines and corporate/institutional walls, (x) learner adds to learners’ personal learning environment, (xi) learn digital skills, (xii) saves on space and costs, (xiii) contribution to lifelong learning, and (xiv) professional development.

Challenges for MOOCs

  1. Learners with disabilities and a poor internet connection cannot use MOOCs.
  2. Digital literacy is necessary to make use of the online materials.
  3. The time and effort required from participants may exceed what students are willing to commit to a free online course.
  4. Once the course is released, content will be reshaped and reinterpreted by the massive student body, making the course trajectory difficult for instructors to control.
  5. Participants must self-regulate and set their own goals.
  6. Language can be a barrier while offering MOOCs. (Babu, Udhaya Mohan., & Ganesan, Kalaiyarasan, 2019).

Conclusion

MOOCs can play a vital role in higher education by providing accessible, flexible, and affordable and fast track completion of courses for free or at a low cost for learners who are interested in learning. It brings new opportunities for innovation in higher education that will allow institutions and academics to explore new online learning models and innovative practices in teaching and learning.  MOOCs are not only an effective tool to offer quality education in a diversified and open way but are also major development to aid higher education.

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To cite this article


Mary Queen, V., & Vel Murugan, P. (2020). MOOCs as a Digital Learning Platform. Sparkling International Journal of Multidisciplinary Research Studies, 3(1), 28-37.