On the Term “MOOC”

Audrey has a nice piece today on problems with the term MOOC.

I’ve always passionately hated the MOOC acronym, mostly because of one of the words behind it. There was never anything massive about what we were doing until the Stanford AI class came along. Nothing that has come out of the original group (Wiley, Couros, Downes, Siemens, Cormier, et al.) has approached anything justifying the term “massive.” And given the size of the MMPORGs like World of Warcraft the term was borrowed from, the Stanford AI course may not even qualify. The M in MOOC has never been justified, and the whole term is aspirational in a way that only highlights the lack of broad impact our work is actually having.

So while the M is my main complaint, you also have to admit that “MOOC” just sounds dumb. No one hearing that acronym pronounced as a word can take it seriously.

Personally, I use the term “open teaching” to describe what I do with (1) publicly available syllabi, readings, and assignments, (2) encouraging participants to publish their work and thoughts on publicly viewable blogs and in other public outlets so that everyone can see, comment, and build on each others’ work, and – since this winter term – (3) awarding open badges to participants (in addition to helping them find ways to receive university credits). The term open teaching plays nicely with terms like open educational resources, open assessment, open credentialing, open access, open data, open policy, and of course the umbrella term – open education.

Since there’s nothing massive about MOOCs, and since the biggest proponents of the term are connectivists who seem to reject the idea of a Course anyway, I just don’t see what our fascination is with this very silly sounding label. But it appears we’re stuck with it.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • wisdemy

    I didn’t read your post before commenting on Audrey’s piece.

    I’m going to repeat myself a little when I say that (a) the word sounds silly to me too and (b) I advocate ditching it too. 🙂

  • Fred Baker

    I very well may be wrong, but I think that the term MOOC is simply misapplied in many situations.  I like the terms open teaching, open class, or open courses, much better when talking about extending college classes, or establishing other similarly structured instructional scenarios.  So to me, DS 106 is (at its core) an open class (although this really is more likely an Open Educational Experience, as Jim Groom described it in an open ed conference video), and Intro to Open Education is also an open class. A MOOC, in my view, refers specifically to a collection of lectures, materials, etc. that are intentionally anti-structured, and are only aggregated in one central place for the convenience of serving as a meeting place for the individual “nodes” of learning groups. These are exemplified by the MOOC.ca moocs of the connectivist flare. There may be some continuum of structuredness between an open class and a MOOC where the two could theoretically become entangled, but from what I have seen they seem separate enough when viewed in this way.  

    Again, I may be totally off, but that is the framework that I distinguish them from.