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MOOCs are Massive Open Online Courses and they are rapidly changing the game for higher education, executive education and employee development generally. This paper presents a snapshot of current developments in MOOCs, noting that MOOCs have really only gathered momentum in the past year and are constantly developing and evolving almost on a weekly basis. The original concept for a MOOC came from academic research in the early 1960s with the idea that people could be linked by a series of computers to listen, discuss and learn about a particular topic.
MOOCs provide free online courses that enable people with an interest in a selected topic to study and learn through interaction with others also interested in the same topic. MOOCs create the opportunity for vast numbers of people across the world to access learning through quality courses, content and lecturers that most would never have access to.
MOOCs started as a form of collaborative online learning with people interacting and learning from each other and being exposed to different perspectives, views and ideas. Some of the MOOCs, such as EdX, continually research their courses to better understand how participants learn and explore ways of using the technology to transform and further enhance the learning and online experience for the participants. In addition, many high profile and elite universities are now offering their standard courses as open courses where people can watch the lectures online and access course slides and materials. When registering for a MOOC, participants are advised they are registering for a course and not enrolling with any of the universities delivering the courses. Until recently MOOCs have not provided participants with credit for further or higher education programs. MOOCs are often four to six weeks duration and the course format involves participants watching a series of short videos prepared by the lecturer detailing a particular topic theme for each of the specified weeks of the course. In some courses participants are required to write an essay or more detailed response instead of an online multiple choice exam.
MOOCs are based on Connectivism principles where learning and knowledge is created through connecting different people with a diversity of opinions. MOOCs are accessible to virtually everybody who has access to the internet and the courses are free.
The continuing growth in the number of MOOCs will lead to significant choice and options for free online courses. Although some critics of MOOCs claim there is a low completion rate for courses, this has more positives than negatives. Those people participating in a MOOC who do not complete a course are not precluding somebody else who wanted to participate but did not meet the selection criteria or cut-off levels. MOOCs could be used as an introduction to certain topics that lead to further study and possibly advanced standing in further education programs, subject to assessment of mastery at a prescribed level.
Need to develop a system for assessing student mastery of certain MOOCs and provide credit or advanced standing for participants applying for higher education programs. Should promote the environment and resources of their university, student experience and value of the qualification for participants who progress from a MOOC to enrolling in a formal university program. Some organisations and industries could use a series of MOOCs, selecting the most appropriate courses from a number of MOOC aggregators, as a pre-qualification for people applying to work in a particular industry, in addition to or instead of a university degree.
MOOCs provide employers with the opportunity to develop an integrated organisation development plan and tailor a learning and development plan for each employee.
YouTube-Education videos with specific topics and speakers used for employees to watch and then discuss or lead discussions with work colleagues.
The above integrated approach to employee learning and skills development could apply to all employees, from frontline, through supervisor and middle management, up to senior managers and executives.
MOOCs have been described in some circles as the biggest development in education for 200 years.


Dr Lindsay Ryan is Director of Corporate Education Advisers. Lindsay is a thought leader, adviser and mentor to organisations assisting with organisational development and employee learning that enables organisations to develop their capability and capacity. William Scrots, King's Painter to Henry VIII and his son Edward VI, was paid a salary twice as large as that of his predecessor, Hans Holbein?
Thomas Stanley was an officer of the Royal Mint at the Tower of London under four monarchs—Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary I and Elizabeth I?
Samuel Hieronymus Grimm, a Swiss painter, toured England for twenty years leaving 2,662 sketches in the British Library -- including the only known image of the coronation of Edward VI?
Sir John Luttrell, an English soldier and diplomat under Henry VIII and Edward VI, was the subject of an allegorical portrait (pictured) by Hans Eworth celebrating peace with France and Scotland?
Edward VI of England's 1547 Injunctions mandated that a copy of the English translation of the Paraphrases of Erasmus was to be kept in every parish church?
MOOCs offer free online courses covering a growing range of topics delivered by qualified lecturers from some of the most well-known universities in the world.
Now, continuous development in technology has become the enabler for virtually everybody in the world to have access to a broad and diverse range of education and learning topics. Other participants could be from the same organisation, city or region, learning together with people from other organisations, cities, regions and countries from around the world.
During the three months from mid-October to mid-January, including the quiet period for learning and development over Christmas-New Year, one major player, Coursera, continued to grow at the rate of 6,900 new participants (Courserians) PER DAY. Over the past year, MOOCs have started to move to the mainstream and increasingly resembling more traditional courses, especially as a significant number of MOOCs are shorter versions of many traditional courses, and often delivered by highly qualified professors and academics whose research and academic expertise underpins the course on a MOOC.
Coursera has a consortium of 33 of the most well-known and highly regarded universities in the world delivering free online courses including Harvard, Stanford, Pennsylvania, Washington, London, Edinburgh, Toronto and Melbourne.
FutureLearn comprises a consortium of 12 major UK universities including The Open University, which has considerable experience in distance and online education, Birmingham, Warwick, Cardiff, Leeds, Bristol and St Andrews.
To achieve the formal qualification people need to apply and enrol with the respective universities, pay the program fees and satisfactorily complete the assessment requirements associated with each course. They might want to learn more about a particular topic or it could be an introduction to consider a future study option or a possible formal university program or career direction.
However this is an area many universities are now considering, especially as one university in the US, Antioch University in Los Angeles, has started providing credit for selected MOOCs into specified college courses. With this size class, there is little participant contact with the lecturers, although some have scheduled times when they join online forums with participants to discuss various aspects of a course or provide further explanation on a topic. The format uses asynchronous learning so that participants can view the video at times that best suit them as well as their time zone. In these cases, some MOOCs arrange for participants to forward their papers to five other participants for peer assessment and marking. Participants have interactive online tests during a course and then they will often post comments in online forums.
Technology is the enabler for MOOCs and with the growing use of smart phones and mobile computing, participants can maintain on-going connection with their MOOC class and interaction with other participants when they are at work, home, travelling and at any time of the day.
It means that people are interested in the concept of MOOCs and willing to investigate online learning, which most people would not have experienced previously. This could reduce the duration and costs associated with completing a formal qualification. It would appear that MOOCs are a win-win for participants, higher education providers and industry.
At this stage the universities involved in launching MOOCs seem to be following the approach adopted by one of the most successful companies of the digital age: Google.


Utilising leading-edge research, Lindsay assists organisations adopt a strategic approach to their corporate education to ensure employee training and development aligns with their goals and strategic direction. He is a former business and finance journalist with Australian Associated Press (AAP) and Dow Jones Newswires in London. In this age of lifelong learning, MOOCs are a means of providing learning and development to virtually everyone, anytime, anywhere in the world with internet access.
MOOCs are the internet equivalent of distance education and there could be 1,000 or 100,000 participants in a single course.
MOOCs open a world of opportunity for people in remote areas and developing countries as well as people with aspirations to achieve more with their lives. Anything that grows at such a rate cannot be ignored and Coursera is just one of an increasing number of MOOC providers bringing together a diverse and expanding range of open online courses. Each course on a MOOC is open for people over the age of 18 and, with parental approval, young learners over the age of 13. Occasionally other resources are recommended, such as additional books and reference materials for particular courses which can be purchased, but they are rarely prescribed as part of a course. Many overseas participants, especially in India, are seeking credit for their studies through MOOCs.
During each topic there are usually online tests that allow participants to respond and check their understanding of the concept or information presented. This approach allows each participant to receive feedback and critique from five other participants.
Some MOOC lecturers try to organise face-to-face study groups in various physical locations or separate online forums for participants to promote learning and understanding through the sharing of ideas, perspectives and experiences with other participants.
It also means that people have the opportunity to explore a topic without being committed to it and incurring significant costs as happens with many undergraduate programs. Based in Adelaide, Australia, Lindsay’s work is highly regarded internationally and he is also Visiting Fellow in Corporate Education with Birmingham City Business School in the United Kingdom. MOOCs are changing the traditional nature of education mainly being for the affluent and elite to being free and accessible to virtually everybody. Coursera also asks participants to agree to an honour code that all the homework, quizzes and exams is their own work and that they won’t cheat or do anything that could dishonestly improve their results or dishonestly affect another person’s results.
A growing number of MOOCs offer a certificate signed by the lecturer once participants satisfactorily complete the course and there may be a fee for the certificate. While most MOOCs incorporate regular self-tests, projects and compulsory exams, universities are still exploring how participants can demonstrate mastery of a topic in order to be able to grant credit for the MOOC study. A lecturer may moderate an assessment where the spread of grades is diverse or a particular participant has a reputation for marking harshly. The American Council on Education is currently investigating a means of accrediting selected MOOCs for credit towards higher education courses.
If they have users, the money will follow (Jarvis, Jeff, (2009) What Would Google Do?, HarperCollins, New York).



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