images-15Massive Online Open Courses (MOOC’s) are open access courses for a large audience. Thousands of learners can participate at each of the courses. Students from Argentinia to Zimbabwe, from Japan to Cananda, can follow the classes by professors of the best universities in the world.
In addition to online course materials such as videos, readings, and problem sets, MOOC’s provide interactive user forums that help build a community for students, professors, and teaching assistants. Therefore, MOOC’s are a huge step beyond regular courses which are put online. They are specifically designed, based on a new didactical concept, in which  education, entertainment (gaming) and sociale media are interrelated. A course may consist of short films, tests to confirm that learners understand what is taught,  and assignments that students can make, by themselves or with other students via local study groups and online forums. Teaching assistants give feedback on discussion platforms. There is homework, the learners pass exams and get grades for their work. Some of the massive online courses however, do not offer credits or diplomas.

The scale of a MOOC requires university professors to fundamentally adapt their approach, for instance in correcting homework. The quality of the study materials must be attractive and challenging en the professor must be able to give entertaining classes, there must be adequate feedback and the interaction among students needs to be facilitated.  read an article on professors who have designed new MOOC’s.

MOOC organizations
Coursera is a commercial educational technology enterprise, started in 2012 by Andre Ng and Daphne Koller, two professors in computer technology at Stanford University. Coursera cooperates with several universities and offers free access to its courses for a large audience worldwide. In less than a year after the start, more than two million students from 196 countries had registered for at least one course. Hundreds of thousands students actually participated and 79%  successfully passed an final exam. All prestigious universities are looking to cooperate with Coursera, which now offers courses in cooperation with 33 of the largest universities, including Princeton, Brown, Columbia and Duke. They also work with universities from Canada, India, Australia, Switzerland, Israel and the United Kingdom.

EdX is Coursera’s nonprofit  counterpart. This organization was started by Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). The organisation’s mission is to reach students of all ages and nationalities, rich as well as poor, with the online courses and to make sure that the professors teaching the courses are just as diverse as the students.
The first course in the fall of 2012 had almost four hundred thousand participants. Apart from offering online courses Harvard and MIT want to use EdX to research how technology can transform learning, both on campus and online. Ttherefore that founded the  X-University Consortium opgericht, a platform of universities that share experiences with online learning. The Dutch Technical University Delft (TUD) is one of the participating universities. The TUD was one of the first Dutch universities to introduce MOOC’s, among which a specific course on water management.

Revenues and data
At this moment, Coursera, Udacity and EdX do not yet generate any income. Revenues must come from extra services such as coaching students, assessments and certification. Most of Coursera’s classes are financed by external investment companies and companies like Microsoft en Google often co-finance part of the open online courses. They are interested in the user data: which are the mechanisms behind effective learning? What does the market want? Who are the most brilliant students? For some, this presents some concern. What happens with the student data? Are they well protected? Even though companies deny the commercial use of data, this of course may be just a matter of time.

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