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.