Thanks to high-speed internet connections and high-definition images, Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) can bring education to everyone everywhere.

 

What is MOOC ?

There has been much talk in the media lately of MOOT: so what is it? Massive Open Online Courses are online course aimed at large-scale interactive participation and open access via the web. In addition to traditional course materials such as videos, readings, and problem sets, MOOCs provide interactive user forums that help build a community for the students, professors, and teaching assistants, and are available anywhere in the world to users with internet access. The biggest online instruction platforms and pioneers in the field currently are Coursera, Udacity and the Khan Academy.

 

Coursera, Udacity and Khan Academy

In the US, start-ups Coursera and Udacity were set up by professors from Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), whilst Khan Academy was the brainchild of educator and MIT & Harvard Business School graduate Salman Khan.

Created two years ago, Coursera currently offers some 380 free online courses via partnerships with 80 top universities and organisations  from the US, Asia and Europe, including EPFL in Switzerland, France’s École Polytechnique, Universiteit Leiden in the Netherlands  and the University of Edinburgh in the UK.  In May 2013 Coursera had 3.1 million users and has recently begun offering courses for American secondary school teachers.

These platforms, though not as yet officially recognised by the traditional education establishment, give free courses but do not issue actual degrees. Coursera and Udacity, however – unlike Khan Academy – are for-profit organisations, offering enrolled students certificate and job placement services for a fee.

 

MOOC: the traditional universities strike back

The result of a combination of new technologies and innovations in teaching methods, MOOCs are also the subject of much debate at conventional, brick-and-mortar higher-education establishments, whose very future is called into question by such initiatives.

Some universities are responding by setting up similar services: MIT, for example, pioneers in online teaching with their OpenCourseWare project (see the e-media article (Sharing knowledge with new technologies), recently partnered with a number of other prestigious American universities (Harvard, Berkeley) to create EdX, a non- profit initiative, whilst in the UK, Future Learn offers online instruction via partnerships with institutions such as British Library, the British Council, the British Museum and 20 of the countries’ top universities.

In the French-speaking world, the Campus Numérique Francophone (CNF) is a similar distant teaching platform made up of a network of universities who share teaching materials and projects online.

Moreover, the French government is launching ‘’France Universités Numériques’’ this year, and online digital higher education programme, which aims to issue degrees by 2017.