MOOCs going Massive

By Kim Jones, CEO, Curriki

A recent article in the NY Times suggested this is the “Year of the MOOC”. The article refers to the rapid growth of MOOCs as “a revolution that has higher education gasping”.

What is a MOOC? MOOC is an abbreviation for massive open online course, in other words a way of delivering a given course to many thousands of people via the Internet. According to Wikipedia:

“A massive open online course (MOOC) is a type of online course aimed at large-scale participation and open access via the web. MOOCs are a recent development in the area of distance education, and a progression of the kind of open education ideals suggested by open educational resources.”

So the principles are open access, promoting a course to many learners, and participation – active learning. The NY Times article noted that “three things matter most in online learning: quality of material covered, engagement of the teacher and interaction among students”

This Youtube video introduces the philosophy of MOOCs ; it is less than 5 minutes in length and is worth a look.


Right now MOOCs are primarily a higher education phenomenon. The best-known MOOCs are Coursera and edX. Coursera begun at Stanford, and now 34 universities are contributing content at Presently there are 203 courses being offered at Coursera.

edX is led by MIT and Harvard, and now includes UC Berkeley and the University of Texas system (9 universities) as contributors at Anant Agarwal, MIT Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and President of edX has stated “This is the single biggest change in education since the printing press.”

Actually, at Curriki we think open courseware is the biggest change in education since the printing press. Open courseware, such as that available on Curriki, is the progenitor of MOOCs. We have not yet seen MOOCs take off in the K12 space, but it seems only a matter of time. One could imagine this happening initially on a district-wide basis, with a standard course based on open courseware (such as Curriki’s Algebra 1 course) being accessed by students across a district. The teachers in each classroom would have roles as facilitators and coaches, thereby promoting higher levels of individualized attention.

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