The Many Guises of MOOCs

Littlejohn, Allison and Hood, Nina (2018). The Many Guises of MOOCs. In: Littlejohn, Allison and Hood, Nina eds. Reconceptualising Learning in the Digital Age: The [Un]democratising Potential of MOOCs. SpringerBriefs in Open and Distance Education. Springer, pp. 1–19.



Massive open online courses (MOOCs) often are viewed as synonymous
with innovation and openness. In this chapter, we trace their origins and varied manifestations and the ways they are understood. We interrogate the wide-ranging uses and interpretations of the terms massive, open and course, and how these terms are represented in different types of MOOCs. We then identify contradictions associated with MOOC excitement. Despite the initial agenda of MOOCs to open up
access to education, it is seen that they tend to attract people with university education. Rather than offering scaffolds that support people who are not able to act as autonomous learners, MOOCs often are designed to be used by people who are already able to learn. Like traditional education systems, MOOCs usually require learners to conform to expected norms, rather than freeing learners to chart their own pathways. These norms sustain the traditional hierarchy between the expert teacher and novice learner (Ross et al. 2014). A particularly troubling feature of MOOCs is that, as supports are becoming automated and technology-based, this power structure is becoming less visible, since it is embedded within the algorithms and analytics that underpin MOOCs.

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  • Item ORO ID
  • 55935
  • Item Type
  • Book Section
  • ISBN
  • 981-10-8892-6, 978-981-10-8892-6
  • Keywords
  • MOOC; Massive Open Online Course; Open Eduction; Online Education; Technology-enhanced Learning; Digital Learning; Higher Education; Adult Learning
  • Academic Unit or School
  • Institute of Educational Technology (IET)
  • Copyright Holders
  • © 2018 The Authors
  • Depositing User
  • Allison Littlejohn