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Faculty Resource Guide

This libguide provides information on a wide range of issues of relevance to faculty including how to link to library resources, what you can and cannot put into Moodle, Open Content Sites, and Information about new Scholarly Communication Hubs.

What are MOOCs? 

Massive Open Online Courses or MOOCs are large online courses - often consisting of 10's of Thousands of students. These courses are usually freely available for anyone to sign up for, but they offer little, if any, institutional support and no faculty face time. 

MOOCs name  implies that these are a form of Open Educational Resources but true OER advocates, such as David Wiley, are quick to point out that they are actually not true OERs and that their name leads to confusion around what is true Open Education.  In particular, they are troubled about the fact that MOOCs do not allow for adaptation that makes true open education valuable to people in different cultures, speaking different languages, with different learning styles, or needing changes made to facilitate use by handicapped individuals.

Those studying MOOCs  know that their creators motivation can range from the  Altruistic to the Monetary. But regardless of their motivation MOOCs are expensive to produce as they require extensive amount of Intellectual Property clearance as well as  Instructional Design experts.  The former ensure all materials are openly available for anyone who signs up to use. The latter ensure that courses are well laid out,  easy to understand and as educationally useful as possible given a professor does not supply personal assistance. 

Most now incorporate Web 2.0 technologies to enable students to meet virtually and they include online quizzes or other automated feedbacks.  Several are looking at the introduction of Cognitive Tutors to monitor student progress in Labs, exercises, etc.  Despite this, current evidence demonstrates that MOOCs are presently retaining lower numbers of students and that those who enroll or succeed are those with a previous higher education degree making them a less successful means of educating undergrad. Some wonder if this points to the need to have more services available to students but their size makes this difficult to facilitate.

Issues around MOOCs

Those who supportive MOOCs say they offer:

  • The opportunity to get a university education for minimal costs regardless of location.
  • A means for governments to provide the tens of millions of people who will be seeking higher education opportunities a place to learn.
  • A means for universities to do community outreach and demonstrate the value of their knowledge.  An excellent example of this is the Indigenous Canada course offered by the University of Alberta. 
  • A means for universities to recruit and fund students they would not have seen otherwise.
  • A means for higher education institutions to utlize the big data gathered in a MOOC course to assess what instructional methods work best for online or blended courses.
  • Instructors the opportunity to learn more about educational technology that can be used more effectively for both online and face-to-face courses.

Detractors on the other hand are quick to point out that they:

Irregardless of whether one is pro or con, MOOCs still face a number of challenges they must address: