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Experiences from Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) and how the MOOC could potentially increase diversity, social inclusion & learner engagement | Mark Morley

"There is currently much interest and excitement at the emergence of an educational approach commonly termed the ‘Massive Open Online Course’ or MOOC. ... I feel there is much we can learn from the delivery of MOOCs that can be used to enhance the on-campus experience supplemented by online course material and delivery. This format offers us the opportunity to investigate learning and improve teaching processes, perhaps more similar to the edX approach. It would seem appropriate to collect and use data to inform this process; treating learning and teaching as a field ripe for research, tying in to a research-led approach."

Peter B. Sloep's insight:

This is the single, most compehensive resource on MOOCs that I have come across yet. It discusses the history of MOOCs and describes Mark's personal experience with a number of them (both the c- and x- variety). Although it is a personal account, particularly the latter part, there is much value in learning the opinions of someone who 'has walked the walk' and not just 'talked the talk'. Anybody who wants to form an opinion on MOOCs - whether administrator, teacher of regular courses, teacher aspiring to teach a MOOC, or student in the widest sense of the word - can find something valuable here. Highly recommended! (@pbsloep)

Rose Heaney's curator insight, January 12, 2013 6:30 AM

comprehensive indeed - author has participated in a lot of moocs. Very readable intro for those who have never heard of moocs

Patricia Daniels's curator insight, January 13, 2013 9:17 AM

Interesting and detailed personal insight into cMOOCs and xMOOCs from a participant. I sincerely hope more learners take the time to reflect and share the experiences they have with this kind of learning context. I find as an educator that the student voice is important and assuming that the developers of MOOCs are prepared to listen to critique, both postive and negative, then this is a valuable factor which can lead to improvements which hopefully will have a positive effect on the learner experience and quality of learning.




Hamline CTL's curator insight, February 6, 2013 4:22 PM

MOOCs are not going away!

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Time to retire from online learning? | Tony Bates, personal blog

Time to retire from online learning? | Tony Bates, personal blog | Networked Learning - MOOCs and more |

... I can’t express adequately just how pissed off I am about MOOCs – not the concept, but all the hubris and nonsense that’s been talked and written about them. At a personal level, it was as if 45 years of work was for nothing. All the research and study I and many others had done on what makes for successful learning online were totally ignored, with truly disastrous consequences in terms of effective learning for the vast majority of participants who took MOOCs from the Ivy League universities. Having ignored online learning for nearly 20 years, Stanford, MIT and Harvard had to re-invent online learning in their own image to maintain their perceived superiority in all things higher educational. And the media fell for it, hook, line and sinker. ...

Peter B. Sloep's insight:

The good thing about blogs is that you may be or even are supposed to take a personal stance. Tony Bates certainly does so here, announcing that he will significantly reduce his involvement in the online learning debate.


However, the present scoop is not to draw attention to this decision, it is to highlight his heartfelt complaint about the MOOC debates. It is a position I thoroughly sympathize with. There's nothing inherently wrong with the idea of having MOOCs, they are just another shoot on the tree of online learning. MOOCs should also be given credit for drawing wide attention to online learning modes and pointing out that they need not be second choice (whether they are or should be your first choice, all depends on the learning context). However, Tony is absolutely right to point out that the debate is not an academic debate about the vices and virtues of a particular form of (online) learning. Ignoring 30 years of research in online learning and distance education, as the MOOC proponents do, is bad academic practice.


So we should continue to research MOOCs, do experiments with them, share experiences. But we should give credit to people such as Tony Bates, who spent the better part of their professional lives carving out MOOC-like concepts of learning and doing the research  to test their viability. I know, this is not what Tony Bates was after in his post, but he (and many others for that matter) do deserve to be given the credits that the MOOC pundits deny him. At their peril, I should add, because a great deal of valuable research results are now lost on them.


Louise Lewis's curator insight, April 19, 1:30 AM

MOOCs are just another tool in the kit bag - not a new-age online learning phenomenon.  Taken in context, they can be a way of connecting learners, if of course, they are used effectively which includes interactivity and engagement.  Otherwise, they just become simply a duplication of the lecture method online.  Strange that the Ivy League are now espousing that they have created these new wonderful hybrid MOOCs that are engaging.  OMG why didn't they just refer to the world leaders in research eg Bates, Downes, Siemens and others before claiming the all knowing high ground.  Please ......!

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Innovate 2013 at Ohio State: Jim Fowler's MOOCulus Steal My Idea Presentation - YouTube

Jim is a mathematics instructor who is building technology and testing it in the classroom. His projects include a clicker system, game show buzzers, augment...
Peter B. Sloep's insight:

This 5 minute presentation I find particularly interesting in that Jim Fowler quite convincingly explains how the value of MOOCs lies in our ability to collect massive amounts of data about student performance. He himself built a tool - using Markov chains - that set students new calculus problems in function of their past performance He argues that at present MOOCs may not be very good at teaching people. However, once such tools as his have become available and more sophisticated, MOOCs may outperform regular teachers in their ability to adapt to a specific student's needs.  Obviously, I add, this superiority does not necessarily extend to all the aspect of a student-teacher relation. However, if a large data set is available on how student performance evolves over time in response to the problem set a student has been confronted with, such data can be used to recommend new problems. And I agree with Jim that I don't see how a teacher's mind could ever outperform such a recommender system. @pbsloep

timokos's curator insight, April 11, 3:48 AM

Great video on the use of data-analytics and tools for improving MOOCulus: Massive Open Online Calculus. The tool is even Open Source :-)

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Invasion of the MOOCs: The Promises and Perils of Massive Open Online Courses | Parlor Press

Invasion of the MOOCs: The Promises and Perils of Massive Open Online Courses | Parlor Press | Networked Learning - MOOCs and more |

Invasion of the MOOCs: The Promise and Perils of Massive Open Online Courses is one of the first collections of essays about the phenomenon of “Massive Online Open Courses.” Unlike accounts in the mainstream media and educational press, Invasion of the MOOCs is not written from the perspective of removed administrators, would-be education entrepreneurs/venture capitalists, or political pundits. Rather, this collection of essays comes from faculty who developed and taught MOOCs in 2012 and 2013, students who participated in those MOOCs, and academics and observers who have first hand experience with MOOCs and higher education. These twenty-one essays reflect the complexity of the very definition of what is (and what might in the near future be) a “MOOC,” along with perspectives and opinions that move far beyond the polarizing debate about MOOCs that has occupied the media in previous accounts. Toward that end, Invasion of the MOOCs reflects a wide variety of impressions about MOOCs from the most recent past and projects possibilities about MOOCs for the not so distant future.

Peter B. Sloep's insight:

Although it focuses on the situation in the USA, this is a collection of essays that should command wider interest.  Not all of the arguments are novel, in fact, most have surfaced in one form or another in blogs, essays, reports, etc. However, this freely downloadable book places them in context and provides the authors room to argue somewhat more extensively than, say, a blog post would have allowed them. The papers are of varying quality, some more interesting than others, most recounting experiences with a particular instance of a MOOC - such as a course on writing. The introductory essay that sets the stage and the closing essay that wraps up the discussion are the exceptions, along with a few others that discuss such notions as usability and feedback. 


Singling out a few other essays, a section on privacy in the paper entitled ‘The hidden costs of MOOCs’ caught my attention as it discusses the threat that truly massive MOOCs pose to the professor(s) involved. Changing email address, moving office to a hard-to-find spot in the building may become a necessity in such cases. Another paper I found interesting discusses the user experience of MOOC software, which should make up for the lack of sociability but usually fails to do so (Coursera: Fifty ways to fix the software). ‘Another colonialist tool’ is an essay I also found particularly interesting, perhaps not surprisingly given my own feeling that the claimed democratising potential of MOOCs really is neocolonialism in disguise ( Under the title “MOOC assigned’ the idea of a MOOC as a textbook is discussed, that is, as a professor you assign a MOOC to your students and go through the experience of it jointly. This is a format I hadn’t hear of yet, which of course resembles open courseware initiatives but differs in that ‘your’ students mingle with the other ones. 


Some key words that appear throughout the book may help to give a sense of what its further coverage: xMOOc, cMOOC, research, history, costing, business model, course design, student ratio, instructor, openness, copyright, feedback, credit, usability, openness.


Beth Dailey's curator insight, March 31, 7:11 AM

Great collection of essays on MOOCs.

Theophilus's curator insight, April 3, 3:49 AM

Great lessons to learn for our South African Higher Education institutions who are embarking on e-learning and online-course alternatives. We do not have to commit the same mistakes.

Paul Carey's curator insight, April 3, 4:32 AM

The real story of moocs perhaps?

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MOOCs, Massive Open Online Courses, An Update of EUA's first paper | Michael Gaebel, EUA

MOOCs, Massive Open Online Courses, An Update of EUA's first paper | Michael Gaebel, EUA | Networked Learning - MOOCs and more |

With the rapid development of MOOCs, EUA (the European University Association) published an occasional paper in January 2013 on MOOCs for discussion at the EUA Council, and for information for EUA membership. The present paper aims to provide an update on these developments, particularly as they concern European higher education.

Peter B. Sloep's insight:

A year ago in MOOC land is almost ancient history. An update to the EUA’s previous report therefore almost reads as something entirely novel. The present version of the report covers several issues. It provides an overview of the well-known international MOOC facilitators, describes their specific characteristics and then goes on to inventory the European reaction to them. According to the report, about one third of all current MOOCs are of European extraction. It then wonders whether there is a specific European dimension to MOOCs and compares them with MOOCs around the globe. Business models are also paid attention to, an area in which the USA and Europe seem to follow a different course: where venture capital plays a major role in the USA, university initiatives and governmental involvement, including that of the European Union, seem to characterise European MOOC development. Then MOOC pedagogy is discussed, also with an eye on the impact MOOCs may have on higher education in Europe. It is of course this last issue which prompted the European University Association to commission the first and this second report. 


There seems to be a flurry of reports that take stock of where we stand with respect to MOOCs. When some claim that MOOCS  have passed the top of the hype cycle and are heading for the trough of disillusionment, reports like this are certainly useful for historical purposes. But for us now, who lack the benefit of historical hindsight, the present report can help to make up our mind about the direction in which we want to head with MOOCs. Do they spell they end of public higher education? Not according to Europeans, it seems. Are they the latest development in a move towards opening up educational resources? Perhaps, and more so in Europe than in the USA.  Are they a boost to the use of technology-enhanced forms of learning in higher education? For sure and everywhere! @pbsloep


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The pedagogy of the Massive Open Online Course (MOOC): the UK view | Siân Bayne and Jen Ross, the Higher Education Academy

The pedagogy of the Massive Open Online Course (MOOC): the UK view  | Siân Bayne and Jen Ross, the Higher Education Academy | Networked Learning - MOOCs and more |

The report contains four main sections:

• an overview of the current UK MOOC landscape, illustrating the rich and to date rather neglected history of innovation in open course delivery within the UK during the period preceding our engagement with the large MOOC platforms and the launch of FutureLearn;

• a literature review which addresses key areas of concern within the current published and grey literatures on MOOC pedagogy and associated contextual issues; here we outline what we see as the most important themes currently driving the MOOC pedagogy debate;

• a series of ‘snapshots’ of current UK MOOCs, with an emphasis on looking at the detail of teacher practice, and on approaching the question of MOOC pedagogy from the position of the active teacher-practitioner;

• a conclusion which brings together themes from the literature review with the ‘snapshots’ in order to outline what we consider to be the most pressing issues the UK higher education community should be addressing in relation to MOOC pedagogy.

Peter B. Sloep's insight:

This is a valuable report, particularly since it doesn’t try to cover everything but focuses on pedagogical issues in particular. Also, the fact that the report limits itself to the UK situation may bother some, but the benefit again is depth. And the UK situation is contrasted with the well-known US MOOC platforms, portraying the UK MOOCs as being European in character. This is exemplified by the pan European OpenupEd platform, which exhibits such European values as equity, quality and diversity. A strong point is the literature review and the in-depth discussion of five exemplary MOOCs. Together, they show that the distinction between cMOOCs and xMOOCs is too simple, meanwhile intermediate and different kinds MOOCs have enriched the MOOC landscape.


The report contains a wealth of other interesting facts and views. Although it is of course a mere mark on the developmental timeline of MOOCs, anybody with an interest in their pedagogy should read it. It is time well spent.  @pbsloep

joan gavin's curator insight, March 10, 6:19 AM

Important to remember that MOOCs are designed to give people a "taster" in a particular subject.  They are not intended to replace university degrees.

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Stories to TEL: All my scoops from August 2013 until February 2014| Peter Sloep

Stories to TEL: All my scoops from August 2013 until February 2014| Peter Sloep | Networked Learning - MOOCs and more |

As a service to my followers and readers, a blog post of mine containing the publication date, title, author and source of all my scoops from August, 2013 until February, 2014. Hyperlinks to the scoops are provided.

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University of London MOOC Report | Barney Grainger, U. London

Peter B. Sloep's insight:

This is a quite an interesting report. For one, it provides hard and detailed data on the experiences of one of the early MOOC adopters, garnered in four courses. To summarise the most striking of them 

- MOOC participants spill over into degree programmes

- creating a MOOC costs huge amount of resources and time, but subsequent runs are expected to be relatively cheap

- about 50% of the registered user actually participate (according to their definition of active which differs from Coursera's)

- 6 weeks, 5-10 hours per week is an appropriate study load, even though people still complain about lack of time

- demographic: most participants are males between 20 and 30, have a university education, and are not necessiraly interested in certificate

- MOOC usage is primarily videos, forum usage is limited, but despite this forums are still crucial, they explain.


These are just the highlights, read the report for there are many detailed tables and graphs, which should interest anyone considering to get involved in creating a MOOC. Indeed, their findings are interesting and relevant to anyone interested in distance education (such as the traditional open universities), if only because of the size of their sample: over 90k students. Three things I find striking. 1) MOOCs are a good way to lure participants to become students, 2) don't expect MOOOC participants to study more than 5 hours a week, stick to a flexible format, so for example limit course duration,  don't push participants into forum usage, let them watch videos at their own leisure  (but perhaps I am reading too much into the data here). @pbsloep


niftyjock's curator insight, February 17, 8:43 PM

More MOOC Mania

Manuel León Urrutia's curator insight, March 2, 12:28 PM

Another MOOC report, this time from University of London. Section 6 specially interesting for MOOC making. 

luiy's curator insight, April 15, 6:21 PM

Project Planning a MOOC


The course teams involved with our MOOCs included experienced academics with familiarity in developing materials on a learning platform. Nonetheless, for each of them it was their first experience of MOOCs, as it was for the project planning team.



Delivering a MOOC


A range of styles and learning methods were adopted by the four MOOCs, appropriate to the subject matter covered. A MOOC structure of six weeks and 5-10 student effort hours per week of study appeared to be just right for the majority of students (55%). Some considerations for future delivery include:


< Well designed announcements at the beginning and end of each week that articulate with the topic coverage, learning activities and assessment methods can be effective at maintaining student interest and motivation.

< Management of forum threads and posts is a critical factor in dealing with massive scale short courses to ensure the majority of students are not affected negatively by the behaviour of a small number of the community, while preserving the openness of the discussion areas.


< The Coursera platform tools are significant and comprehensive in terms of plotting overall student activity, allowing evaluation of assessment data, as well as usage statistics on video resources and other learning activities; however, further refinement of these tools to enable both students and teaching staff to understand their progression at an individual level is necessary (and underway).

** Learning Resource Development


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Five myths about Moocs | Diana Laurillard, Times Higher Education

Five myths about Moocs | Diana Laurillard, Times Higher Education | Networked Learning - MOOCs and more |

Diana Laurillard explains why a model based on unsupervised learning is not the answer. 

 "Free online courses that require no prior qualifications or fee are a wonderful idea but are not viable. …  Moocs are depicted as a disruptive technology because they involve no ongoing teaching expenses and cost the same to run no matter how many students enrol. But the idea that “content is free” in education is one of several myths that have helped to inflate the bubble of hype. … Another myth is that students can support each other. … Nor will Moocs solve the problem of expensive undergraduate education or educational scarcity in emerging economies. This is just a cruel myth. … [Finally], education is not a mass customer industry: it is a personal client industry."


Peter B. Sloep's insight:

Although already a month old, this article  is still worth a scoop as it addresses a number of myths, as Diana Laurillard calls them, about MOOCs. Of course, this criticism is not to be taken as an outright dismissal of MOOCs. First of all, MOOCs come in different kinds and the criticisms apply in differing degrees to the different kinds. Second, if there is value in MOOCs, one cannot expect to get everything right in the first instance. So MOOCs should be allowed time and room to evolve. But why then the fuzz about them  in the first place, one might ask.  Because, as I have argued elsewhere too, they have been able to shake up academia as we know it. Since academia's cherished and customary way of teaching is under siege, or so it seems, it now feels a pressing need to make improvements. Nothing wrong with that, as long as you don’t think that the grass in the MOOC field is greener than everywhere else.

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Completion data for MOOCs - Martin Weller & Katy Jordan, The Ed Techie

Completion data for MOOCs - Martin Weller & Katy Jordan, The Ed Techie | Networked Learning - MOOCs and more |

Completion rates is something that MOOC watchers on either side of the fence have been obsessed with from day one. In this blog post, Martin Weller publishes some data collected by OU researcher Katy Jordan on completion rates, in particular factors that influence them. Although a full paper is promised in due time, the preliminary results are already quite interesting. To mention a few, the median completion percentage is around 12%; the larger the enrollment (or the larger the number of active users), the lower the completion rate; the longer a course takes to complete, the lower the completion rate. Martin Weller then raises a few questions, tongue in cheek as the data are correlational only. However, it would indeed be nice to know if shorter MOOCs fare better in terms of completion, or if people get better at learning with MOOCs over time.

Peter B. Sloep's insight:

And then there is of course the question of whether completion matters. Martin raises that question too. The fundamental mistake is to compare a MOOC setting with a classroom setting, opening the gates to anybody even with only a remote interest versus a handpicked, in many respects homogeneous group of students who paid good money. Putting the comparison this way points out that the really interesting thing would be _not_ to find significantly lower completion rates in MOOCs.

The second mistake relates to an assumption that underlies many MOOC discussions: MOOCs are cheap, if they are as good as ‘regular’ courses, then they should replace such courses. That argument of course fails if completion rates are abysmal. The mistake here is that costs aren’t the only dimension in which MOOCs and regular courses are to be compared. Costs matter, but effectiveness (do people learn useful things, do they learn what they are supposed to) matters at least as much. I would suggest to contextualise discussions about completion rates by looking at  MOOCs as a means to some end. That implies that MOOCs for, say, continuous professional development need to be evaluated differently then MOOCs for Psychology 101. @pbsloep

Jon Dron's comment, February 6, 3:37 PM
I think most MOOCs are cargo-cult courses: they look like courses, smell like courses, use what look like the same methods, but they don't achieve the same ends because courses cannot be considered apart from the contexts that surround them and the roles they play in the bigger picture. Without accreditation, commitment and the social and organizational norms and expectations of an institutional education context, they are not the same thing at all. It's like the original cargo cults and suffers from the same misconceptions: a cardboard airport with flaming torches marking out a runway is not going to make planes land. Jon Dron
Peter B. Sloep's comment, February 6, 3:41 PM
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Recent reports and papers on MOOCs and Online education | ICDE

Recent reports and papers on MOOCs and Online education | ICDE | Networked Learning - MOOCs and more |

This overview of nine key documents published over the past year is provided to support the ongoing debate on MOOCs, Open Educational Resources and online education, and to support the change processes in this time of openness. Dates of publication and extent are noted.

Peter B. Sloep's insight:

The ICDE or International Council on Distance Education has made room on its website for what they believe are influential papers and reports on MOOCs. No surprises really, but predominantly a handy collection for who wants to acquaint him or herself with MOOCs. @pbsloep

uTOP Inria's curator insight, October 15, 2013 9:24 AM

(ICDE - 11/10/2013).

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20,000 students in the first 24 hours: UK enters MOOC space with social, mobile FutureLearn

20,000 students in the first 24 hours: UK enters MOOC space with social, mobile FutureLearn | Networked Learning - MOOCs and more |

Until last Wednesday, US-based learning platforms have led the development of MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses). Together, those platforms, including Coursera, edX, and Udacity, serve an estimated 3 million learners worldwide with courses from a number of elite partner institutions, such as Harvard and MIT.

But now, in the same week in which edX announced a partnership with Google for the development of a new, open-source online learning system, the UK has launched its own – and its first-ever – MOOC platform: FutureLearn.

Peter B. Sloep's insight:

It will be interesting to see in which direction FutureLearn is going to develop. Will it be a pedagogical innovation with respect to the canned lecture format of the established MOOC platforms, i.e. will it be able to leverage 30 years of research in open and distance learing? This question is particularly interesting since the OU UK is involved in FutureLearn but has also been a very active player in the researh arena. Second, what stance will FutureLearn take in the debate, mainly raging in the USA, about the commoditization of education, education becoming a private rather than a public good? This question is interesting as, again, the OU UK has been a major force in making higher education accessible to all. Wil FutureLearn continue on this path? @pbsloep

Stefan Krastev's comment, September 26, 2013 11:59 AM
Another point to be mentioned is that FutureLearn starts from the beginning with a content which is optimised for mobile devices. Mobile solutions are very important especially for the students in emerging markets. Interesting will be both the implementation of the mobile learning and how effective it will be.
Jacqueline Kassteen's comment, September 26, 2013 8:03 PM
Yes, a great point to highlight Stefan! The responsive design helps FutureLearn towards its goal of making education accessible to all.
Peter B. Sloep's comment, September 27, 2013 3:33 AM
@stefan good point, hadn't realised that. You're right, in emerging markets and developing countries, 3G mobile networks are more widely available than fiberglass. In fact, it is a stage they skip it seems
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Learning in networks and in communities of practice | Peter Sloep - Stories to TEL

Learning in networks and in communities of practice | Peter Sloep - Stories to TEL | Networked Learning - MOOCs and more |

A blog post of mine on the difference between a learning network and a community of practice: Although different, they are very much interdependent

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The attack of the MOOCs | The Economist, Higher Education

The attack of the MOOCs | The Economist, Higher Education | Networked Learning - MOOCs and more |

An army of new online courses is scaring the wits out of traditional universities. But can they find a viable business model?

Peter B. Sloep's insight:

This concise article contains little news for those who keep up to date on MOOC developments. However, it still is useful in that it only takes on the question of whether (higher) education with MOOCs can be turned into a viable business. This is revealing, both in that the Economist concludes that the verdict is still out on that question and in that no single sentence is devoted to the question of whether this is a good idea in the first place. (@pbsloep)

Gabi Witthaus's curator insight, August 22, 2013 4:04 AM

Good commentary by Peter Sloep: "This concise article contains little news for those who keep up to date on MOOC developments. However, it still is useful in that it only takes on the question of whether (higher) education with MOOCs can be turned into a viable business. This is revealing, both in that the Economist concludes that the verdict is still out on that question and in that no single sentence is devoted to the question of whether this is a good idea in the first place." (@pbsloep)


I suppose it is The Economist, after all...

drsmetty's curator insight, August 25, 2013 7:26 AM

Offering MOOC's... a “lemming-like rush”? Interesting metaphor.

Fiona Harvey's curator insight, September 21, 2013 7:16 AM

Business models are appearing - Coursera announced this week that they have made $1million on their Signature track (although this pales into insignificance against their investors $66 million) Better than nothing though!  Interesting article though. 

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Blended Learning Model Definitions | Christensen Institute

Blended Learning Model Definitions | Christensen Institute | Networked Learning - MOOCs and more |

The definition of blended learning is a formal education program in which a student learns:

(1) at least in part through online learning, with some element of student control over time, place, path, and/or pace;

(2) at least in part in a supervised brick-and-mortar location away from home;

(3) and the modalities along each student’s learning path within a course or subject are connected to provide an integrated learning experience.


Peter B. Sloep's insight:

The focus of these pages is networked learning. As the above definition points out, online learning is part and parcel of blended learning experiences. In some cases, the online part is of a social nature, thereby qualifying it as a form of networked learning. Apart from that, next to MOOCs blended learning is another attempt at marrying the online and the offline in learning. Although the terminology used is different, although the intentions are different (for sure if it concerns xMOOCs), there are a lot of similarities worth drawing attention to. This is particularly so since the various forms of blended learning discussed in this short scoop offer useful food for thought for those interested in furthering the evolution of MOOCs. I am thinking in particular of the à-la-carte model and the enriched-virtual model. Also, the classification is unlikely to be exhaustive and therefore provides food for the imaginative thinker.


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Special Issue of eLearning Papers just published on latest MOOC research | Pierre Antoine Ullmo | P.A.U. Education

Special Issue of eLearning Papers just published on latest MOOC research | Pierre Antoine Ullmo | P.A.U. Education | Networked Learning - MOOCs and more |


Massive open online courses (MOOCs) have become a widely recognized as a valuable form of informal learning. The task now at hand is to develop a rich body of research and documented practice so that educational institutions and learners can better benefit from this new form of education.

This issue of the eLearning Papers contributes to that body of knowledge with four in-depth research papers and six reports from the field

Peter B. Sloep's insight:

February this year, I reported in a scoop ; about my attendance of the European MOOC summit that was held at the EPFL, Lausanne Switzerland.


The conference featured many lively discussions on policy and business models. but also on experiences with and research on MOOCs. A number of the research papers now have been published in this special issue of eLearning papers (issue 37). I will not comment on the individual papers and direct you towards the remarks I made in a blog post <>, in which I briefly discussed some. Please note that these remarks pertain to the unpolished versions  of the papers that featured in the conference proceedings. May I add that the editor is to be commended on producing this collection in such a speedy fashion? 


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Trend Report: open and online education furthers quality and flexibility | Nicolai van der Woert, Ria Jacobi & Hester Jelgerhuis , Surf

Trend Report: open and online education furthers quality and flexibility | Nicolai van der Woert, Ria Jacobi & Hester Jelgerhuis , Surf | Networked Learning - MOOCs and more |

(From the foreword) The global development towards open education dates back more than ten years. In 2006, several Dutch universities followed suit with the publication of OpenCourseWare. Although several institutions had already embraced the concept of open education for some time, the issue seems to have truly taken hold in the Dutch higher education sector since 2013, largely due to the growing popularity of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs).

The Trend Report supports this conclusion. The report accurately describes the latest developments and challenges facing the Dutch higher education sector in relation to open and online education. The articles also outline a concrete vision on future developments, such as the effects of recognising MOOC results, the impact of digitisation on postgraduate education and other forms of disruptive innovation.


Peter B. Sloep's insight:

This is the third trend report in a row  that Surf, in which Dutch higher education institutions collaborate on educational innovation with ICTs,  has published. It features contributions by academics and support staff throughout higher education in the Netherlands, thus reflecting the current state of the art. Although the perspective is wider than MOOCed education, the term MOOC features 430 times, at least once on almost all of its 69 pages. It goes to show that in the Netherlands, but likely in Europe as a whole, there is an intimate link between MOOCs and open education. ‘Open’ here means making use of open licenses (such a creative commons licenses), it stands in contrast with ‘open’ in the sense of for free, without cost, which applies to the courses of the large MOOC platforms (see also the EUA report next 


As indicated, all the topics covered in the report refer to MOOCs. To name a few of them:  flexibility and quality, postgraduate education, apps for open education, economics of open education, platforms, recognition of credits, testing and assessment, MOOCs in formal education, learning analytics, student perspectives, privacy and other legal issues. As with the previous trend reports, a useful collection of insights. @pbsloep

Manuel León Urrutia's curator insight, March 24, 9:18 AM

A trend analysis on MOOCs from all perspectives: institutional, educational, business, and technical. Interesting to see the insights of dutch scholars on how MOOCs can offer quality education, how can become sustainable business models. Of special interest is the second article about the potential of MOOCs to change education economics, supported with figures.

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A Comparison of Five Free MOOC Platforms for Educators

A Comparison of Five Free MOOC Platforms for Educators | Networked Learning - MOOCs and more |
There are a number of good options for educators looking to build their own MOOCs. Here is a look at five of the most interesting platforms.
Peter B. Sloep's insight:

Don’t expect a thorough report, this is just a one page overview ticking off such items as maximum class size,  the availability of custom analytics, and the ability to host yourself. The platforms are edX, moodle, course sites, udemy and versal. Each one is briefly discussed. The value of the list is that it allows adventurous teachers to try out a MOOC course of their own making. Institutions will want a more extensive list. Finally, ‘free’ here means ‘gratis’ (no money changes hands), not ‘open’ (as in with an open license).  @pbsloep

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Interaction in Massive Courses, J.UCS Special Issue

Traditional lectures, especially when given to large audiences, are characterized by a prevalent passivity of students as well as reduced interactions between the lecturer and the audience. For some years, research has been devoted to exploring how new media can be harnessed to support and promote collaborative activities in large learning groups. … investigation of the capabilities of Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL) led to the development of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) capable of providing several ten thousands of learners with access to courses over the web. … The Special Issue aimed to gather research works in the field of massive courses with a special focus on enhancing interaction between lecturers-students or students-student in face-to-face situations or completely online by using different kind of technologies …
Peter B. Sloep's insight:
The introduction, from which the above words are a brief excerpt only, is followed by four papers (to one of which I contributed myself, I hasten to add; and while I am at it, I should also confess I was a member of the programme committee). They cover a variety of topics ranging from a conceptual framework for designing MOOCs, via awareness tools and a question-driven audience response system to an automated service for team formation for collaborative online learning. The collection is useful and interesting, it also belies that much that goes under the umbrella of MOOC research could just as easily have been labeled TEL research. But never mind, if this is the way to alert broader audiences to TEL research in general or technology-enhanced networked learning research more in particular, then so be it. @pbsloep
Bruno De Lièvre's curator insight, March 6, 11:40 AM

... à suivre...

Anne Whaits's comment, March 6, 12:29 PM
Thank you so much for sharing this @pbsloep.
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KD-MOOC 2014 Workshop on Datamining for MOOCs

The popularity of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) has attracted considerable attention from academic institutions providing the courses, potential students and researchers. The enthusiasm for all the possibilities of this type of online education has, however, been tempered by issues such as of the quality of education provided, the support needed by vast numbers of students and the high drop-out rate. The Educational Data Mining community has an important role to play in the debate about the advantages and disadvantages of MOOCs, as well as in proposing intelligent solutions for addressing various educational aspects. There are many challenges of knowledge discovery in MOOCs, including the vast volume of data and the diversity of users. These challenges, however, bring opportunities to develop new data mining techniques or adapt established knowledge discovery approaches to the requirements of analysing MOOCs data. 

Peter B. Sloep's insight:

Last week I reported on the EMOOCs conference, in which a significant part was reserved for reporting on various experiences with and research results on MOOCs. This July a workshop will be held focussing on data mining in MOOCs. If MOOCs are as massive as their name suggests - which of course is not always the case in actual fact - then data mining should be particularly profitable. It should give us insights in how MOOCs fare but also on how to generate the raw material on which recommenders may operate. The call for papers is still open until April 14th, so everybody who has a data mining & MOOCs axe to grind, pay attention! @pbsloep

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European MOOCs Stakeholder Summit 2014 - EMOOCs 2014 | Peter Sloep, Stories to TEL

European MOOCs Stakeholder Summit 2014 - EMOOCs 2014 | Peter Sloep, Stories to TEL | Networked Learning - MOOCs and more |

A blog post about my impressions of the just ended EMOOCs 2014 conference


Note added: the above link misdirects you. I can't remedy this in, so I provide the correct link here:

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EMOOCs 2014 Conference | February 10-12, 2014 in Lausanne (Switzerland)

EMOOCs 2014 Conference | February 10-12, 2014 in Lausanne (Switzerland) | Networked Learning - MOOCs and more |

At the moment of writing this European conference on MOOCs is still running. It has an interesting format, featuring four different tracks: policy, business, research and experience. If you want to hear about the first two, you need to come to the conference in rainy Lausanne, Switserland; or perhaps follow it remotely through its hashtag #emoocs2014. No such drastic measures, however, are needed to learn more about the research and experience tracks. The papers have all been published in the conference proceedings, edited by Ulrike Cress and Carlos Kloos Delagado. They may be downloaded from the conference homepage. A direct link to them is

Peter B. Sloep's insight:

Since MOOCs still are a new kid on the block, as these pages testify, you cannot expect realistically to find thorough, well-elaborated papers with deep theoretical underpinnings and balanced discussions of the empirical findings. Still, for anyone with an interest in MOOCs there is a lot of interesting stuff, about completion rates, about self-guidance and its cognates, about MOOCs for such contexts as language learning, and much more. Quite a bit of the work flagged as MOOC related would not have been unfitting for a general conference on elearning or technology-enhanced learning, and I suspect that, had we not had MOOCs, many papers would have ended up there. But that is not criticism, rather an acknowledgement of the fact that MOOCs have given the old topic of online learning a new lease of life, be it in disguise. Who can be opposed to that?


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In U.S., Online Education Rated Best for Value and Options | Lydia Saad, Brandon Busteed, Mitchell Ogisi - Gallup Poll

In U.S., Online Education Rated Best for Value and Options | Lydia Saad, Brandon Busteed, Mitchell Ogisi - Gallup Poll | Networked Learning - MOOCs and more |

Bottom Line: Online courses and degrees offer immense potential for increasing college access, decreasing the cost of education, and providing expanded options for learning. Still, overcoming the public's views on technology could be difficult. For instance, despite lots of media and industry buzz about the personalized nature of online instruction, Americans still view traditional, classroom-based education as better tailored to each individual.

Peter B. Sloep's insight:

Although this poll does not explicitly mention MOOCs and addresses online education in general, it has MOOC written all over it. With the large public attention MOOCs have drawn over the past year, with articles in the New York Times and Time Magazine, with senators and the president paying attention to them, it is inevitable that the public image of online education is at least tainted by MOOCs.


And what does the public think? They are cautious, see opportunities and value for money, but still mainly put their faith in the publicly funded educational system if it comes to the value of a degree and the quality of teaching and testing. Gallup concludes that "… if leaders in the field [of online education] want online learning to have equal status with campus-based programs, they need to do more to demonstrate high standards for instruction, testing, and grading. 


This suggests we should want online education to replace campus-based education. I am not so sure we should want this. I find another finding from the poll more interesting. People don't think online learning can be tailored to fit the needs of the individual learner (a difference of 18 percent points between those who do and those who don't think so, see picture). Perhaps this goes for xMOOCs, but cMOOCs and other forms of networked learning are designed to put the learner in the driver's seat. So also in this respect, online learning has a lot of convincing to do, and the current debate about xMOOCs isn't helping, I'm afraid. @pbsloep


Note: thanks are due to Peter Waterhouse, who brought this poll to my attention via the Association for Learning Technology's Members discussion list.

David J MacFadyen's curator insight, October 16, 2013 3:34 PM

Amazing results (pro-MOOC) for the age of the MOOC movement and for the minimally evolved state of MOOCs

Darryl Poole's curator insight, October 20, 2013 9:50 PM

Would your conclusion from the data be the same as the above?

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Copyright Challenges in a MOOC Environment | Educause Brief

The intersection of copyright with the scale and delivery of MOOCs highlights the enduring tensions between academic freedom, institutional autonomy, and copyright law in higher education. To gain insight into the copyright concerns of MOOC stakeholders, EDUCAUSE talked with CIOs, university general counsel, provosts, copyright experts, and representatives from other higher education associations. The consensus was that intellectual property questions for MOOC content merit wide discussion […].

Peter B. Sloep's insight:

This brief addresses the situation in the USA, but raises issues that carry world-wide significance. For instance, who ownes the right to the material used in a MOOC, the provider or the developing university. With most MOOCs, it is the provider, although for traditional course material it is the professor or, if this has been contractually agreed, the institution. In this case one may argue that the institution and contributing professor full well know to what kind of legal arrangement they submit themselves. But what about the students who decide to take a MOOC. Are they aware of the fact that the MOOC provider owns the content generated by them in chats and assignments? The brief also addresses issues of fair use and issue that arise from the global nature of many MOOCs.  


It appears that MOOCs, in particular the commercial MOOC platform providers, are a new element in a carefully balanced system of rights and duties, a factor that has the potential of upsetting this system. Particularly if we welcome MOOCs as a valuable addition to the educational landscape, copyright issues need to be resolved in a way that honours the stakes of all contributors, not only those of the MOOC platforms. In a blog post in February this year (, I wondered whether MOOC providers should be likened to Internet access providers, which are oblivious to the content they provide,  or to content providers such as the Apple iTunes Store. It seems they aspire to be the latter, wishing to control the content provided. They should realise that this brings responsibilities in its wake, for instance to do a proper job. This was the topic of the February blog post. Now it appears that making equitable copyright provisions should be added to the list. @pbsloep

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MOOCs | - Sharples, McAndrew, Weller et al | Innovating Pedagogy 2013

MOOCs | - Sharples, McAndrew, Weller et al | Innovating Pedagogy 2013 | Networked Learning - MOOCs and more |
Peter B. Sloep's insight:

Earlier this month, the Open University (UK) published its second instalment of what looks like to become a series of trend reports on "exploring new forms of teaching, learning, assessment" in an effort "to guide educators and policy makers". 


Last year the report already included an article on MOOCs and so does this year's issue (pp 9-11). The report establishes that "Current MOOC design offers a good route for professional development […]", something which has been argued for by others in these pages too. It also reports that social learning and peer support may be ways to generate the feedback in MOOCs that is currently largely lacking. It also has a few remarks about retention, to the effect that merely "measuring the fall-off from initial registration is simple but could be misleading".


Most interesting perhaps are the trends, after all, this is a trend report. It argues that where MOOCs are going is perhaps less interesting a question than asking in what way MOOCs can meet the growing need for education and learning. The report notes that MOOCs probably never will be able to meet that need for people without confidence or qualifications; that possibly, MOOCs can make the larger public aware of the benefits of education by providing an enjoyable learning experience; that MOOCs already attract many, mostly professionals, and make education providers at large aware of the issue of educational value for money. @pbsloep

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Money Models for MOOCs | Dellarocas & Van Alstyn - Communications of the ACM

Money Models for MOOCs | Dellarocas & Van Alstyn - Communications of the ACM | Networked Learning - MOOCs and more |

Despite the massive media ink spilled over massive open online courses, the ink spilled by MOOCs themselves remains red. MOOCs lose money. Most are free. Universities and venture capitalists subsidize them while searching for the class of the future.

Peter B. Sloep's insight:

So far nothing new. Complaints about the lack of viable business models for MOOCs are probably as old as MOOCs themselves, xMOOCs that is. However, what sets this article apart is the systematic way in which it approaches the issue. Dellarocas and Van Alstyn discern two different kinds of revenue streams, by charging for things and by charging people. However, when charging for things, it is not the product itself that carries the price tag, after all that is free, but complements or add-ons. Thus, one could charge for providing student data ('analytics'), or for certification or tutoring services. When charging people, it is not the MOOC learners themselves that have to pay - again, the product is free - but others whose interests somehow depend on the students. So, prospective employers could be asked to pay for data on students to inform their recruitment (again, analytics), companies could sponsor courses, or universities could share the development cost of courses. This last idea of course sits at the core of the OER movement, something which the authors entirely seem to miss as they insist on calling it content syndication, not even mentioning OERs. However, the idea is clear.


These two kinds of revenue streams constitute two dimensions of a matrix, the cells of which represent equally many business models, at least so the authors claim. Indeed, they solicit the help of the readers actually to fill all the cells, they themselves have been able to do so for 13 out of 20, some of which I mentioned in the above. Their most interesting ideas are collaborative group learning, where groups of learners self-organise and commit to learning, and problem-sponsored learning, where interested organisations sponsor student projects to solve some problem they experience. Collaborative group learning comes very close to what cMOOCS attempt to achieve in the online realm (again, not mentioned), which more generally is called networked learning. Problem-sponsored learning is very much akin to some work I myself was involved in, which we dubbed the virtual company (Westera & Sloep, 1998). Students would work in distributed  groups on authentic assignments collected from interested organisations. Although these organisations did not pay up front, they had to make people available for fine-tuning their question, for identifying experts to be consulted, and for providing input into the assessments. 


These and the other models discussed are useful contributions to the MOOC discussion. However, for me, their value does not lie in their ability to inform business models. As the two examples I discussed in a little more detail show, their value lies in prodding us tho think about different pedagogies than the tried and tested one of lecturing in front of a class. And yes, this needs to be paid for somehow, but whether education should be a public good or something that is subject to the laws of share-holder capitalism had better be discussed on its own merits than under the pretence of business models. (@pbsloep)



Westera, W., & Sloep, P. B. (1998). The Virtual Company: Toward a Self-Directed, Competence-Based Learning Environment in Distance Education. Educational Technology, 38(1), 32–37. Retrieved from

JohnRobertson's curator insight, August 27, 2013 10:04 AM

See Peter Sloep's commentary as well as the article

Pieter de Vries's curator insight, September 6, 2013 5:03 PM

Is it all about money, or does it just distract us from the main issue: innovation.

Arie den Boon's comment, September 20, 2013 10:45 AM
Perhaps the main issue is here how and when does it work