Massive Open Online Courses represent a young paradigm of e-learning within the higher-education sector, which has become more and more popular and widespread since 2011. For a better understanding of the term MOOC we would like to start with spelling out this acronym.
|M assive||Potentially thousands or even ten-thousands of people participate, which means a highly scalable mode of teaching from the viewpoint of an instructor. There is a huge diversity with respect to geographical, cultural or biographical background among participants, which results in multiple perspectives and ideas within the learning community.|
|O pen||Everybody can participate as long as he or she has a sufficient internet connection and a valid e-mail address. There are no formal or institutional access hurdles. Participation in the course is for free.|
|O nline||Participation is conducted completely and so is the course maintenance by the teaching staff. Modern web technologies enable access to multimedia learning resources, working on tasks to apply one's knowledge and interaction between participants within a virtual learning community. All these features are browser-based without the need to install multiple applications on one's local machine.|
|C ourse||Some structural elements from the traditional education setting are preserved, other aspects differ completely: In most MOOCs there is an official starting and closing date and typically a new chapter is released each week. This provides some structure to ensure all learners are on the same page. In sharp contrast to the traditional lecture setting, within a specific week learners are free to choose when (in the morning, late at night?) and where (at the breakfast table, while commuting to work, or in the library?) they spend their time to browse the learning resources and work on tasks. They communicate asynchronously with the other participants to discuss the content and help each other with open questions. Curriculum design emphasizes breaking down each chapter into smaller chunks of information about specific concepts. Participants receive instant and automated feedback about one's knowledge acquisition.|
Courses at openHPI range from topics like internet security and offering programming workshops for beginners to more complex classes about latest developments in database technologies for advanced learners. All these topics reflect the fields of research Hasso Plattner Institute is renowned for.
Taking a MOOC at openHPI involves the following features:
All those aspects are visualized in our animated introductory video.
While we offer our own courses about IT topics on openHPI our well-developed technical platform is also used by other MOOC initiatives: On openSAP there are different courses for vocational training; United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR ) is running openUNE for education and trainings in China; just recently Hasso Plattner Institute began to offer other interested institutions the possibility to offer their own courses on mooc.house.
The genesis of MOOCs partly roots in the Open Course Ware movement.
In the late 90th some universities like the MIT and Carnegie Mellon in US and the University of Tuebingen in Germany began to provide recordings of some lectures online. In essence, the open course ware movement with its mission of opening up higher education to the general public was much about giving free access to already existing learning resources.
Also at Hasso Plattner Institute the openHPI project roots in our tele-TASK project, which is an integrated system to easily record a lecturer's talk together with the accompanying presentation slides. Since then almost all lectures and talks with visiting schoolars at Hasso Plattner Institute have been digitized.
A MOOC is more than just providing learning resources
Will it be possible to enrich learning resources with other didactic features such as providing practical tasks to apply one's knowledge and giving instant feedback about one's learning process, as well as fostering interaction of learners within a virtual community?
This question was asked around 2010 by Sebastian Thrun, in those days professor for computer science at Stanford University. He began to offer a course about artificial intelligence online and resonance was positive in that an incredible high number of around 160,000 learners from around the world joined this class, some of them participating actively and some at least checking out some parts of it. Since then, Thrun concentrated on providing more courses which not only transfer learning resources from the class room, but structure curriculum and design content explicitly for the online medium. With the work by Thrun and other schoolars the MOOC was born. In 2012, also other teachers and institutions began to offer Massive Open Online Courses about higher education content and different platforms have evolved building a new e-learning ecosystem. Those initiatives often came from US universities, but also Germany was very early part of the movement. The first MOOC on openHPI ran in the summer of 2012!