MOOCs became a big part of the general higher education landscape in 2011 (Seling, 2014). “Many saw in them promise of a revolutionary force that would disrupt traditional higher education by expanding access and reducing costs” (Selingo, 2014). Many believed that MOOCs would give students all over the world an opportunity to gain an education. Although a majority of MOOCs are free, they are still difficult to complete. Selingo (2014) discusses how “just 25 percent of students passed; in another, only 50 percent passed, much lower rates than for the on-campus equivalents”. The question becomes exactly, how do MOOCs fit into the general higher education landscape. We must factor in how MOOCs are unconventional and there is no set way of delivering instruction. Every MOOC has a different format and way of assessment. The ability to learn from these MOOCs shows that education can be delivered in various ways and be successful.

Selingo (2014) discusses how “nearly all MOOCs originate from the world’s top universities”. Top universities usually have students who are over achievers, extremely bright, motivated, and are disciplined students who are willing to sit down and study from a textbook (Selingo, 2014). As a result, the MOOCs are formatted in such a way that students who have had previous educational backgrounds are those who ultimately complete the course. Christensen and Alcorn (2014) discuss how there is also a continued need to focus on basic and secondary education so that more people, especially women, will be able to participate. Traditional universities must acknowledge that many of these students who want to take MOOCs have very little educational experience, therefore, when designing the course, should take this into consideration.

After students complete MOOcs, the questions becomes “how to collect these diverse experiences into a meaningful representation of that newly acquired knowledge” (Blake, 2014). There really is very little data to determine the quality of design, delivery and outcome, making it rather difficult for institutions to recognize MOOCs as a possible addition of a credit to a student’s transcript. “Traditional education measures the quality of learning with a variety of assessment methods against a set of established criteria or objectives”. However, the assessment aspect of MOOCs are not always straightforward, making it unclear on what the intended outcome of the course was (Morristown, 2015). For institutions to be able to include MOOCs on a transcript, the MOOCs need to select “a framework grounded in learning theory that supports an effective course design process that delivers quality learning experiences” (Morrison, 2015). If most MOOCs continue to have varied formats and no consistency with curriculum design, institutions will less likely recognize them.

Blake, D. (2013, October 25). Can MOOCs revolutionize the college transcript? Huffington Post. Retrieved from

Christensen, G., & Alcorn, B. (2014, March 16). Who takes MOOCs? Educated, employed, First-World guys. Retrieved from

Morrison, D. (2015, December 12). MOOC quality comes down to this: Effective course design. Retrieved from

Selingo, J. J. (2014, October 29). Demystifying the MOOC. The New York Times. Retrieved from


2 thoughts on “MOOCs

  1. Hi Nicole
    You provided some interesting and sobering facts about MOOCs and their role in higher education. I wasn’t quite sure where Selingo’s statement about most MOOCs originating from the top universities came from. Current MOOC platforms such as Edx and Coursera have established partnerships with hundreds of universities (Hutt, 2016, December 13).
    It seems to me that the important idea here is that MOOCs not be allowed to run amok. If MOOCs are to be integrated into higher education – especially as credit bearing courses – they must be held to the same rigorous educational standards as any brick and mortar course might within a curriculum. As important as this, is the training that must be provided in instructional design so that MOOC courses are well-developed, grounded in educational theory, provide the learner the ability to learn actively, and utilize appropriate and authentic assessment to gauge student learning.
    I think also that the MOOC is not meant to replace every class in every curriculum. They have their place no doubt, but cannot be a substitute for every learning experience.
    Nice blog deign by the way!
    Hutt, R. (2016, December 13). You can now take a course at some of the world’s best universities for free. World Economic Forum. Retioreved from


    • Pam,

      What I meant is how MOOCs were developed with the idea that many students are as eager and motivated to take these courses as students from the most elite universities. With such motivation, students would finish, but those with minimum educational experience do not understand how intense a course could be.

      I agree with you how the MOOC is not meant to replace every class. It is a good opportunity for some people to increase their knowledge about specific topics they are interested about. As I started to look into courses for our assignment due on Saturday, I saw so many MOOCs that were of interest to me. MOOCs provide a great opportunity to be able to just learn without having such mounting pressure to earn specific grades and keep up a high GPA. While they do not count much towards a degree, an individual can now feel a greater sense of esteem knowing they gained information on something of interest.



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