Last updated: 25.08.12

E-learning MOOCs 'can have separate goals'

Massive open online courses (MOOCs) come in three differing formats, a specialist has remarked.

Lisa Lane, history teacher at California's MiraCosta College and director of the institute's Program for Online Learning, wrote on Lisa's Online Teaching Blog that each of these MOOCs has a certain dominant goal.

Virtual learning environments that encourage conversation, exposure to information and the distribution or dissemination of ideas between learners were described as "network-based MOOCs" by the e-learning specialist.

She pointed out that the typical goal of these online training courses is generally not to promote the acquisition of skills and content, but their pedagogy is based upon "connectivist of connectivist-style methods".

Exploring the topics involved with the subjects is typically more important than any specified content, but resources are provided, Ms Lane remarked.

While these online learning innovations are described as the "original MOOCs" by the specialist, she pointed out that assessing how well people have responded to the course can be difficult.

The second MOOC described by the teacher was those that are task-based.

She explained that these require students to complete a variety of assignments and although each of these might have a number of potential options for their solutions, a certain number of tasks must be completed.

These e-learning courses have an emphasis on skills and these can be performed through video, audio, design or in other sections.

Although it is still crucial that people in this online learning environment form a community, helping other participants and providing examples, Ms Lane argued this is a "secondary goal", defining their pedagogy as a mixture of "instructivism and constructivism".

While it is also hard to successfully assess students in task-based MOOCs, she argued that content-based MOOCs can often emphasise this aspect.

These e-learning courses are generally the most commercially viable and can have "huge enrolments", the educator suggested.

While it can be hard to maintain community within these virtual learning environments, some participants find this aspect "hugely significant".

Content acquisition also takes precedent over task completion or networking and the pedagogy is described as "instructivist".

Commenting on her blog, National Research Council of Canada senior researcher Stephen Downes remarked: "It's a pretty good list," stating that while the gap between task-based and network-based Moocs is not as large as she said, "I can certainly see the thinking behind it".