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massive open online course (MOOC)

Contributor(s): Ivy Wigmore

A massive open online course (MOOC) is a free Web-based distance learning program that is designed for the participation of large numbers of geographically dispersed students. 

A MOOC may be patterned on a college or university course or may be less structured. Although MOOCs don't always offer academic credits, they provide education that may enable certification, employment or further studies.

The word MOOC was coined in 2008 by Dave Cormier, from the University of Prince Edward Island for a course offered by the University of Manitoba, "Connectivism and Connective Knowledge." There were 25 tuition-paying students from university and 2,300 non-paying students from the general public who took the course online. There were RSS feeds for material and participation was facilitated through a variety of venues including Moodle (a learning management system), blog posts, Second Life and real-time online meetings.

In 2011, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) OpenCourseWare (OCW) became  the first large collections of MOOC resources made available by a university. In 2012, MIT and Harvard spearheaded the edX initiative for the promotion of MOOCs. 

The acronym MOC is pronounced with a long oo sound, to rhyme with kook rather than book. The Oxford online dictionary added the term (as "Mooc") in August 2013. 

 

See also: Khan Academy, distance learning, distributed learning, webinar, open and distance learning (ODL), virtual classroom

This was last updated in August 2013

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I prefer Kaplan's definition of MOOCs: Open-access online course (i.e., without specific participation restrictions) that allows for unlimited (massive) participation. Source: Kaplan Andreas, Haenlein Michael (2016) Higher education and the digital revolution: About MOOCs, SPOCs, social media, and the Cookie Monster.
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