What is a MOOC?

Wednesday, December 19th, 2012 | trends

MOOC is the new buzzword in education – particularly in the higher education lexicon.

What is a MOOC?  It is an acronym for a Massively Open Online Course.  Let’s unravel the meaning of this phrase in reverse order:

It is a course, since it is courseware prepared by universities (or other education institutions) for accredited programmes of study.

It is online, since anyone with an internet connection can access it.

It is open, since you don’t have to pay for it.  Well, most of the time a MOOC is free; sometimes you are only charged for assessment and/or accreditation.

It is massive(ly),since internet access makes the course available to anyone, anywhere on the planet.  The student body is no longer restricted by location or accommodation.  In theory, hundreds of thousands, even millions of people can enrol for a particular course.

One may wonder on what technology platform MOOCs will be made available.  This is not altogether clear at this stage; the idea of free, open, online courses is appealing to many but the definition  of the technology engine is still in its development phase.

The movement towards MOOCs seems like an attractive option for the beleaguered education system in South Africa, but time will only tell how useful it will be.  Poor internet connectivity, a lack of access to technology devices and low levels of understanding of e-learning are some of the barriers that we have to overcome to make MOOCs viable alternatives to class-bound courses.

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