By Daniela & Lourdes

MOOC – Massively Open Online Courses
MOOC involves having online courses which are open to the public without the need to fulfil certain requirements in order to enrol. Generally, they are offered free of charge. Certain MOOC projects which have already taken off are Coursera, Udacity and edX. This type of WBI has the potential to be the way people learn in the future because of the advantages it entails both logistically and in terms of the educational experience they offer:
  • There is no physical space (schools, educational institutions) needed
  • Material accessed and appended at any time of day hence no time zone considerations
  • Can serve as a pool of knowledge for people coming from different domains (no needs for compartmentalisation of knowledge for example distinct faculties and departments which do not collaborate)
  • No time is wasted in the enrolment phase (signatures, application forms, official documents, photos)
  • Normally free of charge although certain courses might entail a fee
  • People juggling with work, family and other commitments can learn without the need to be physically present for a traditional lecture
  • Learning is self-paced
  • Learner sets his own focus through the way the accesses the content
  • Richer discussion due to anonymity, time to think before contributing to the group, no judgement passing because of race, disabilities, demeanour, weight
  • Incidental learning can take place when students contribute
  • No need to fulfil specific requirements hence no student will feel that he started the course at a disadvantage because he did not obtain the same grade in a prior exam as the others
  • Supports the notion of lifelong learning

Local Context
If there was to be a total changeover from the traditional pedagogy of schooling to MOOC, this would surely send shivers down the spine of most people in authority, parents and students alike. This is not because the ideas behind MOOC are not beneficial but due to the fact that MOOC proposes a completely new way of teaching, learning, assessing performance and most importantly qualifying students. Also, since this notion has not permeated deeply in educational contexts which Malta most often looks up to and only a few MOOC professional projects were launched, more research is needed on how to implement a fully-fletched online learning system that works and provides concrete results.
However, MOOC can set foot in the Maltese educational context gradually for example by having course content also available through RSS feeds, learners participating through their own choice of tools such as discussion on a Virtual Learning Environment, conferencing through Second life, real online meetings and blog posts. Although, the above learning activities do not make justice to MOOC however they should trigger a change in the Maltese mindset of how education is perceived.
Underlying theories
MOOC is a model that supports Siemens and Downes’s theory of Connectivism. Connectivism, a theory coined in 2005, is the idea that knowledge does not exist in one’s head but in connected systems where people participate together in activities. This theory focuses on the extent by which technology affects how people live including learning and communication. Connectivism echoes both Vygostsky’s Activity theory and Bandura’s Social Learning theory. These two theories stipulate that people learn through contact which comes from their participation in activities. Way back in 1994, Levy talked about the idea of Collective Intelligence which encompasses the intelligence shared by a group when the members of the group collaborate and compete.

Interview with George Siemens on MOOC: