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.
Those who supportive MOOCs say they offer:
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: