To MOOC or not…

This has really been an interesting week for me. For one, I was able to attend the event, “Unbound University” organized by the New England Board of Higher Education ( This conference was organized around Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) , focusing the conversation on the MOOCs developed by edX and Coursera. Some big names presented include co-founders of these two program, Anant Agarwal and Andrew Ng  as well as an introduction by Educause’s Diane Oblinger (among others).

Other than cheerleading MOOCs, the conference also focused on how learning institutions might provide credentials to students who complete a MOOC. This was led by a discussion panel of higher education institutions that are starting to provide degrees based on competencies (competency based education) instead of the traditional Carnegie Unit (credit hour). It was nice to hear about how the higher education industry is expanding with an eye towards assessment beyond their traditions. Accreditation agencies such as the Northeast’s NEASC as well as the Department of Education seems to be on-board with the CBE approach.

Another panel presented how such changes could dramatically decrease the cost of obtaining a degree. This is huge particularly within the current debate of overpriced education.

After attending this conference, I began to dig into MOOCs a little bit more and found some even-handed critiques to the movement.

For those interested in MOOCs, I would suggest reading what might easily become a seminal piece of literature on MOOC, this article by Sir John Daniel “Making Sense of MOOCs: Musings in a Maze of Myth, Paradox and Possibility”. You can download the pdf on his website –

Sir Daniels quotes a few lines from Tony Bates’ blog, which is also worth a read –

What I have concluded from hearing directly from the leaders in the movement and after reading some criticisms of MOOCs that Instructional Designers should start asserting themselves as future MOOCs are being developed. I have to admit that I have never enrolled in a MOOC, but from what I have learned this week, we need to apply some instructional design to make these courses quality learning tools.

The NEBHE presentation did have an afternoon session dedicated to The Flipped Classroom, but I did not hear anything about how this would apply to MOOC design. (To be fair, I may have missed that part while I was talking with colleagues.)

For those who are interested, I started a Google Discussion Group to bring IDers together to continue (or really begin) the conversation on designing MOOC courses. Its an open group, so just sign up and start posting –!forum/idmooc

See you online!


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