MOOCs: A Personal View

MOOCS: A Personal View

MOOCs are massive online open courses. They carry no cost or entry requirements, are available online, have no attendance restrictions and can be studied on an anytime-anywhere basis. The term originates from a course that was offered at the University of Manitoba in 2008 and that attracted a large number of online participants.

MOOCs tend to adopt a similar design, with materials being available in a range of formats, accompanied by recommended readings, an opportunity to collaborate with other learners and some form of assessment.

The Open University in the UK is a major provider of open online courses through its OpenLearn and FutureLearn programmes. The latter was launched in November 2013 in partnership with a number of universities.

At a school level generally such developments are rare.


I recently undertook a MOOC from FutureLearn. Called World War 1: A History in 100 Stories, it was delivered by Monash University in Australia. Based on introductions, approximately 145 learners enrolled on the course.


It was a five week course and the elements within each weekly module included:

  • Video introductions, interviews with well known experts, recordings from historical locations
  • Embedded presentations
  • Forum collaboration with other learners
  • Quiz and a collaborative exercise for assessment purposes


From a personal perspective my historical knowledge of the topic increased; my understanding of MOOC design improved; there were good opportunities to network with other students globally. The opportunity to access the course anywhere-anytime (on the train into Glasgow in the morning) supported and improved my learning.

Are their opportunities to benefit from MOOCs in mainstream education?


The Association for Educational Assessment organised a MOOC workshop in Glasgow on November 5th 2015. The focus of the workshop was the use of MOOCs to up-skill teachers in assessment methodology and methods. There were presentations by Norwegian, Swedish and Australian colleagues.

The Norwegian approach to a national teacher MOOC appears to be fairly well developed:

– it was directed by the Norwegian Directorate for Education (i.e. it’s a central government approach)

– it was designed and moderated by Lillehammer University

– 23 000 teachers had enrolled on the MOOC and 20% of had currently completed the full course

– the MOOC could be customised at a local level by school leaders/headteachers to meet the needs of a specific context

– the MOOC had been established as a cost effective way of supporting teacher development on a national scale

What are the opportunities to benefit from MOOCs in mainstream education?

Jim Fanning

Senior Education Officer

Digital Learning and Teaching

November 2015

PS My next MOOC will be:


2 thoughts

  1. I was amongst the learners who signed up for course of study on World War 1.Oddly, my computer became inoperable for a period of time, causing me to miss out on study time required. Although there are no attendance requirements, study is dependent upon delivery of content to specified email address. For some reason, some weeks, no material arrived. In fact, email received today relates to fifth study week, which would obviously place great demands on any student, who has no prior knowledge of, in this case, World War 1

    Does anyone else know how to resolve difficulties of this type, in an otherwise practical solution to learning and accreditation?

    Thank you

    Dolores Devlin


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