A Critical Look at MOOCs

  • J. Michael SpectorEmail author
Part of the Lecture Notes in Educational Technology book series (LNET)


Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are offered online to anyone who registers. There are no requirements to register and for those not wishing to receive course credit or a certificate indicating successful completion, there are no charges to enroll. As a result, enrollments can reach into the thousands. MOOCs are a recent twenty-first century phenomenon that emerged from the open educational resources movement and a course entitled “Connectivism and Connective Knowledge” offered in 2008 by George Siemens and Stephen Downes. There were a small number of students at the University of Manitoba who paid tuition and several thousand others who simply participated in the online course environment at no cost. Given the subject (connectivism) of that early MOOC and the fact that those not paying were there as part of an extended community gathered around the subject of the course, it is reasonable to conclude that the ‘C’ in MOOC stood for ‘course’ for registered participants and ‘community’ for those not registered. Since 2008, MOOCs have appeared in many places and have taken many forms. This chapter examines the growth of MOOCs and the roles that they can play in the context of learning and instruction. The argument herein is that it is a mistake to consider current MOOCs to be a new form of a distance learning course. Rather, current MOOCs should be viewed and evaluated not as courses but as communities of subject-specific participants.


Distance education Dynamic feedback Formative feedback MOOCS 



This paper is a follow-on to one published in Educational Technology Resesearch & Development (Spector 2014b). While the basic substance is similar, there is more emphasis here on how and why MOOCs should evolve to include components found in the for-credit courses offered at the same institution or, as an alternative, simply become large communities of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Learning TechnologiesUniversity of North TexasDentonUSA

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