Monthly Archives: October 2013

X’s and C’s: All MOOCs are not created equal!

Just when some of you are hearing that MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) exist, you learn that there are two types of MOOCs: xMOOC and cMOOC.

Stephen Downes, the man who coined both terms (visualize Jerry Garcia or David Crosby), explains an xMOOC as “if anything, it stands for eXtended.” He meant for it to “indicate programs that aren’t part of the core offering, but which are in some way extensions.” With the passing of time- if you can call since 2008 much of a history- the xMOOC has transformed into more of a traditional college course taught with newer technology and en masse.

George Siemens, who along with Downs was the co-founder of the first MOOC, explains that the cMOOC is based on the learning theory of connectivism that basically supports the theory that learning happens out of chaos, which sees the “connection of everything to everything”.  With today’s technology, this involves learners connecting with other learners in a large network using discussion forums, wikis, blogs and other social media. They can collectively create and generate content. Critics of xMOOCs call it more of a “knowledge consumption” vs. the cMOOC, which is more of a “knowledge production.”

I have experienced being a participant in both types of MOOCs. In the spring of 2013, I enrolled in an xMOOC hosted by Coursera called “Gamification.” Dr. Kevin Werbach of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania taught the MOOC, which was structured like a traditional college course but had enrollment of over 66,000 students.

In September, I started my first cMOOC hosted by Blackboard’s CourseSites called “Badges: New Currency for Professional Credentials,” which had an enrollment of just over 1,600 students. Several gurus of the digital-badges world, like Erin Knight (Mozilla), Deborah Everhart (Georgetown University) and Jennifer McNelly (The Manufacturing Institute), to name a few, were speakers during the content sessions on different weeks. These two contrasting MOOC styles appeal to different learners. For me, it was extremely organized content and social learning vs. esoteric chaos. The Gamification xMOOC motivated me to complete all of the assignments. Unfortunately, the Badges cMOOC had such arcane assignments, I only completed one. But, did I learn from both types of MOOCs? The answer is yes! If I had to do it all over again would I? Yes to that as well.

My suggestion is, if you haven’t experienced a MOOC yet, enroll in one and experience an xMOOC or a cMOOC.  The “open” part of MOOCs makes it easy. They are meant to be “open,” meaning no obstacles like educational prerequisites or fees.  So, what are you waiting for, go MOOC yourself!

Postscript – Now it’s 2016 and more terms have been added to our vocabulary along the lines of MOOCs. Now there are SPOCs and SOOCs. A SPOC is a “Small Private Online Course” and a SOOC is a “Selective Open Online Course”. SPOCs were popularized by the Harvard and UC-Berkeley crowds. SPOCs are mainly online courses that can be closed or private. Harvard, for example, offers a SPOC on “The Architectural Imaginary” to incoming Design School students. SOOCs tend to be open but may be massive or smaller (think hundreds instead of tens of thousands as for MOOCs) and are typically for a more targeted audience.

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