Block 2 Activity 12: Background to MOOCs


Activity 12 begun by watching a video of Martin Weller interviewing George Siemens and Dave Cormier about a range of issues concerning MOOCs.

Excellent discussion about the history of MOOCs and possible implications for the future of MOOCs especially in a HE context.

We need individual country universities to start to design their own open courses rather than piggy backing on others such as Coursera.  If everyone joined Coursera we would lose innovation and creativity that potentially would come from other countries – Removing a higher potential for learners to be surprised by new ideas.

We need to look through the lens of the MOOC at the users and providers and ensure that MOOCs are meeting the needs of everyone.  We also need to look at the benefits and impact that MOOCs have on society.  We need to continue to develop MOOCs providing new models and links to HE integrated structures.

I found Liyanagunawardena et al (2013), MOOCs: A systematic study of the published literature 2008-2012 an interesting read.

Their research highlighted ethical and linguistic issues that had not been widely researched.

Participants who joined a MOOC formed a networked community within the MOOC which sometimes went further from the MOOC out into social media sites.  This networked community was strong enough to move participants from their first MOOC to their second with the same networked community.

There was a high dropout rate from MOOCs and further research was needed to establish reasons for non-completion and it was felt that this would be difficult.  Going back to the Weller, Siemens, Cormier video discussion they discussed dropout occurring and suggested that participants drop out after they get what they need from it and that may not be finishing the entire course or getting the recognition at the end.

MOOCs will act as a change agent within HE instituitions and more research is needed to look at creator/facilitators of MOOCs role along with aspects of the available technologies to act as platforms to support the MOOCs.

The article I chose from Katy Jordan’s MOOC literature browers is:

Ferguson, R. and Sharples, M. (2014) Innovative Pedagogy at Massive Scale: Teaching and Learning in MOOCs.

This paper looked at

  • the implications for pedagogy of education at a massive scale
  • educational approaches designed or adapted to be effective for large numbers of learners
  • direct instruction, networked learning, connectivism, supported open learning, and conversational learning at scale.
  • identifying benefits and the challenges of teaching and learning at scale

Main points:

  • educators and learners need to benefit from the scale of the MOOC.
  • ways need to be found to manage massive communication, opportunities for direct teaching, mentoring and peer support.
  • Technology itself is not self-sufficient and we need to consider how it is best used eg how would we use video to teach along with supporting activities and assessment.  This method is less effective than active and collaborative learning.
  • Networked learning may provide a solution or an alternative depending on scale of participation.  However, networked learning requires a high level of critical literacy.
  • FutureLearn was used as an example of MOOC platform based on scalable web technology and incorporated social constructivist pedagogy, with reflection and inquiry built in.
  • Advantages for learners came through access to support from other learners, shared resources and exposure to different cultural perspectives.
  • Challenges included ensuring good quality, well informed support was available for participants.
  • To set up MOOCs would take time and effort to develop and maintain up-to-date resources within the MOOCS.

Q: Could a MOOC approach be adapted in your area of education?

This is an area that I have been asked to look into.  I think I would need to go back to grass route level and establish what the needs would be of those who were hoped would embark on undertaking a MOOC and then looking at what approach to designing a MOOC would be most beneficial to the establishment, user and the Local Authority.  This would be a huge undertaking and would I imagine involve re-vamping our current Professional Development Team and how they function and making links with HE institutions and other providers to custom design a MOOC that meets current needs and looks towards future needs of users across a small authority. 

This I feel would be unrealistic given the current financial climate.  There is also a huge question around finding users who would actively engage in a MOOC as a means to developing their learning.  Work would be needed to market the value and benefits of learning through a MOOC approach.

Within my own school and looking a developing the capacity of teachers with a view to raising attainment across all curricular areas I would possibly work with the school’s CPD Co-ordinator to look at possible courses that may be available to support development within school.  These could take the form of Khan Academy courses, OpenLearn and FutureLearn courses.  There is a possibility if work was undertaken collegiately through these courses that a networked learning community could be formed and move forward together to embark on further MOOCs.



Downes, S. (undated) The MOOC Guide [online], site/ themoocguide/ home (last accessed 10 April 2016).

Ferguson, R. and Sharples, M. (2014) Innovative Pedagogy at Massive Scale: Teaching and Learning in MOOCs. Institute of Educational Technology, The Open University. UK. [online] at (last accessed 10 April 2016).

Jordan, K. (2013) MOOC Completion Rates: The Data [online]. Available at MOOCproject.html (last accessed 10 April 2016).

Liyanagunawardena, T.R., Adams, A.A. and Williams, S. (2013) ‘MOOCs: a systematic study of the published literature 2008–2012’, The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, vol. 14, no. 3, pp. 202–27 [online]. Available at index.php/ irrodl/ article/ view/ 1455/ 2531 (last accessed 10 April 2016).


Image Credits:

MOOC logo




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