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Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs)

Providing free education to people worldwide and delivering commercial benefits to education providers.

The Opportunity

For education providers and corporations with a clear strategy, operational excellence and the right partners, significant commercial value can be generated through a MOOC program.

Around the world, effective MOOC programs have produced wide-reaching results

  • Increasing brand awareness for education providers of all sizes, from large universities to small colleges by attracting thousands of learners worldwide to online courses who would otherwise not know about the education provider.

  • Large scale up-skilling of working professionals as a result of improved access to high quality online courses.

  • Increasing conversion rates for domestic and international student recruitment campaigns by enabling prospective students to ‘try before they buy’ courses from the education provider before committing to enrol.

  • Generating new and self-funding revenue streams through certification fees, pathways to credentials or micro-credentials, and the utilisation of MOOCs within existing accredited degree programs

The Challenge

The first significant wave of MOOCs in 2012 were accompanied by public enthusiasm for their potential to provide free access to higher education.

However, early MOOC platforms and universities have encountered a range of educational, commercial and operational challenges in realising the potential and benefits of MOOCs.

Whilst there is still support and enthusiasm for MOOCs almost a decade on since they hit mainstream language; it is often offset by challenges and criticisms regarding:

  • Limited Engagement levels of learners.

  • Low Completion rates;

  • Maintaining the learning quality at scale; and,

  • Demonstrating learning outcomes that map to accreditation pathways.

Recent research and analysis into MOOCs by both universities and leading MOOC platforms has identified the primary causes of these challenges, including:

  • Passive learning experience: Not adapting the content and experience to a new education market. The evolution of information available is limitless, which is why today’s learners also seek more active and application-based learning experiences where they can network with the learner community.

  • The changing role of the educator: Focusing on information dissemination is no longer the best use of an expert’s time. This approach scales poorly in the online space where lack of interaction with educators and peers creates a sense of isolation and results in disengagement.

  • Platform Limitation: Many education providers try to retrofit traditional Learning Management Systems (LMS) to run MOOCs. However, LMS functionality is centred on administration and management needs rather than delivering scalable, low-cost courses. Even many of the leading MOOC platforms have limited functionality, focusing on content delivery, video lectures and quiz-based assessments to the detriment of course quality and accreditation outcomes.

The Solution

Rethinking the learning design and facilitation process for a learner-driven market:

To create a vibrant learning community:

  • Activities must generate discussion and result in artefacts that are worth sharing;

  • Engagement moves beyond content-delivery to thinking creatively in how learners can apply their knowledge/skills to a broader range of situations; and,

  • The role of the educator moves from teaching to facilitating with a focus on mentoring, guiding, and fostering peer-to-peer interaction.

Choosing a platform that’s designed for MOOCs:

To realise the potential of MOOCs and the value that they can create for universities and education providers, the platform needs to be designed to implement a clear educational philosophy.

Founded on the pedagogy of social constructivism, OpenLearning’s platform:

  • Empowers learners by fostering deeper learning through intrinsic motivation.

  • Enables authentic, active learning experiences which go beyond publishing content; and,

  • Creates a community of practice where knowledge is shared and co-created, and engagement fosters peer-to-peer support and encouragement.

This is achieved by a multitude of social media features, flexible content creation tools, facilitation tools, and in-depth analytics – all structured in a seamless platform. That creates a positive environment for learners and educators.

An academic paper titled Research contributions on the educational use of MOOCs by Julio CABERO-ALMENARA, Verónica MARÍN-DÍAZ and Begoña E. SAMPEDRO-REQUENA, compared xMOOC (extended MOOC) and cMOOC (social/connectivist MOOC).

Under this methodology, the first wave of MOOCs offered by universities would be classified as xMOOC while more recent and effective MOOCs would be cMOOCs.


Learning to know

  • Learning centred on the information that the teacher transmits.

  • Linear guided learning

  • Learning based on sharing knowledge with others.

  • Active and participatory learning.

Learning to do

  • The tasks proposed are more about evaluating whether or not the content has been absorbed based on self-evaluation.

  • The learning is passive.

  • The tasks depend on the involvement of the participants and their relation with the others.

  • This is more active learning, emphasising “learning by doing”.

Learning to live together

  • From the standpoint of the model together xMOOCs do not contemplate this perspective of learning to coexist, as the learning process is totally individual.

  • The connection established in this form of courses is a good example of shared collaborative cooperative learning and so involves relating with the rest of the course community

Learning to be

  • xMOOCs propose totally individualised learning, and so it will depend on the participant whether or not he or she develops.

  • Life-long learning character.

  • The offer clearly reflects this learning, as it means at all times that the connection with the rest of the participants and the interactions make us grow and develop as people.

  • This is more active learning, emphasising “learning by doing”.

Platforms designed specifically for each type of MOOC (*)

  • Coursera

  • EdX

  • Udacity

  • OpenLearning

  • FutureLearn

Source “Table 1. Pillars of Education of the Delors Report and xMooc and cMOOC. Julio CABERO-ALMENARA, Verónica MARÍN-DÍAZ and Begoña E. SAMPEDRO-REQUENA

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