In August, 2012, four months after opening, Coursera—one of several Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) providers quickly gaining traction on the Internet—registered one million students, from nearly 200 countries. This is only one of the many staggering statistics that could be shared about the sudden popularity of MOOCs, the total of which speak to the worldwide interest in accessing university courses online.
The large number of people enrolling in MOOCs, coupled with university interest in expanding online content, has put this new model in the spotlight. The term MOOC dates from 2008, developed initially as a pedagogical experiment focused on creating a more connected and democratic learning environment. However, since 2011, universities have used the term to describe course offerings geared toward a worldwide student body. Today, “MOOC” describes a range of pedagogical models. George Siemens distinguishes between “cMOOCs” which follow the original “connectivist” model and the more institutionalised and tightly structured “xMOOCs”. Despite the differences, the emergence of MOOCs as a whole poses a set of challenges to the educational community. Many of us seem to believe that MOOCs are finally delivering some of the technology-enabled change in education that we have been waiting nearly two decades for.