MOOC – The challenge to our University

I did it. I sent a message to our educational developers. No, more than a message, and to more than just the ed developers. Also to the admins and the managers.

ImageAnd that message was: Take up the challenge of MOOCs. Take up Distance Education and embrace it. Look at MOOCs and learn.

Oh dear. I think I am an EDUPunK! 🙂

Here is a copy of the email just sent:

Dear UNFed members,

My thanks to those who attended my session yesterday on Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC). I was encouraged by the large turnout.

For those who didn’t attend I attach the PDF of the mindmap used to loosely join together the (my) learning’s from the MOOC.

In the center you will find the term MOOC and a link to a video describing MOOCs (by Dave Cormier Interestingly one comment from the discussion about the video was that it was describing essentially a utopian or ideal MOOC.

To be honest that is actually my experience and what I got from MOOCMOOC – the online course about MOOCs that I participated in. I learned that (distance/elearning) education can be student centred, can form a very successful collaborative chort of students, can be more than the LMS, can make use of social tools in novel ways, can lead to an improvement of my social network and overall *WILL* be a major force in the future. Of course MOOCMOOC was a cMOOC – a connectivist MOOC and NOT an xMOOC. xMOOCs are the “commercial” MOOC courses that have assessments and offer certifications.

Can all courses be taught this way? Are Coursera and EdX etc (xMOOCs) going to rule all forms of education? This is unknown. No one knows. BUT I do now know that the cMOOC model does offer a very valid way to teach students at the highest level (e.g. highest level of Blooms etc). Could we (UNSW) do this? Should we make it a whole course? Part of a course? Could we deliver it at a cost we could afford? Would it be best for marketing UNSW? Would it be best for enticing students? These are all questions yet to be answered… The future for a lot of independent learners though will be the MOOC (due to their free nature and openness) so to answer one question, yes MOOCs are likely  a challenge to UNSW and its mission. How great a challenge is yet to be seen.

As talked about briefly at the meeting there is a lot of change that needs to occur within the university in relation to policy, support of openness, support of distance education etc for a MOOC to be effectively run from UNSW (as a centralised initiative at least). But I believe we can all learn from and include aspects of MOOC course design in what we do as educators and course designers regardless of top level decisions.

My challenge to you as Ed Developers, interested admins and managers (yes I know you are on this list), is to find a MOOC (cMOOC or xMOOC), enroll and study its ways. I guarantee you will learn a lot… One place to start looking for a MOOC may be here: If you are interested in “Sustainability” (A subject MBT teaches in a “real” online course format) here is a course you might also find interesting:

On a related note for those who did attend you might like to take a look at Stephen Downes latest post on assessment. I think it too is a step forward in educational thinking…

More idealism? Sure, but at the end of the day aren’t we all trying to offer the ideal learning environment to our students?

Thanks for your time, your interest and your feedback.

Andrew Chambers BA, CBC, GCOLL, MEd

P.S. To stay up to date with my discoveries and interests in MOOC and Moodle feel free to follow me on twitter (atsc). Twitter was one of the essential social glues that held the MOOCMOOC course together and made it work for a large number of students…



One Response to “MOOC – The challenge to our University”

  1. reflectionsandcontemplations Says:

    I think it’s great that you’ve flagged the MOOC as an important development and encouraged colleagues to “study its ways”. Whatever happens next I think it’s something people need to be aware of.

    Crowdsourcing your organisation’s research into the medium will help to control for personal experience and the particularities of individual courses.

    When pointing people in the direction of MOOCs, you’d definitely want to make people aware of the whole ecosystem, not just the xMOOCs ( is great for a list of these).
    I’m not sure if there is a comparable list of cMOOCs, though. I know @mhawksey has thought about one. Maybe we could crowdsource one?

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