MOOCs amplify existing issues

Get the complete book Thinking Strategically about MOOCs: The Role of Massive Open Online Courses in the College and University at Amazon in print or kindle version.

Practically speaking, MOOCs are a platform of bundled technologies. If you sign with Coursera, Udacity, edX, or other xMOOC providers, you’ll make use of the technology bundle that they provide. If you elect to develop your own cMOOC, you likely already provide support to your on-campus constituents for most of the technologies used to deliver such MOOCs—though you may not have consciously connected them in the same manner, or at the same scale. cMOOCs make use of information systems commonly found on campus: an LMS, wikis, blogs, social media, and video and videoconferencing tools.

But MOOCs are more than just the technology that drives them. MOOCs—especially cMOOCs—are personal learning networks, enabled by technology, that enable the learner to interact with and derive knowledge from other participants. Learners themselves take responsibility, create connections and develop networks of resources that contribute to their professional development and knowledge. In the context of these personal learning networks, the learner need not know other participants personally or ever meet in person.

These concepts underscore the thinking behind MOOCs and the rationale to aggregate the technologies brought together to create them. It is in this context that MOOCs have the potential to amplify the scope and scale of learning as well as your institutional influence and reach.

The potential of these technologies notwithstanding, there are issues your campus planning team should consider before finalizing a MOOC program. The nexus of existing technologies and the implementation of them at the scale of the MOOC amplify attendant (and pre-existing) issues—support and scalability, exposure and liability—that you will need to consider as you identify the extent to which you participate in the provision of MOOCs. The amplification of these issues will likely impact how your institution supports current practices should you decide to participate in and provide MOOCs.

It’s worth reviewing the underlying technologies that enable MOOCs and online learning. In this post I’ll outline some issues and challenges regarding user support, scalability, exposure, and liability that implementing technologies at the scale of the MOOC introduces.

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