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While updating iBerry's MOOC Resource Page I had difficulty in deciding whether some online courses really deserve to be called MOOCs. Providers are always happy to jump onto the MOOC bandwagon but some 'MOOCs' now seem to have drifted a little too far from the original concept of a Massive Open Online Course.
For example, 'self-paced MOOCs' are apparently online courses consisting of Open Courseware (OCW) and maybe a discussion forum but with no formal start or end. In contrast with other MOOCs, participants cannot be focused on the same part of the course at the same time and so availability of mutual help and support is less likely. These open online courses may or may not be excellent for self-study but the term 'MOOC' seems inappropriate without a massive body of participants moving through the course together.
When I was a student (long before the Internet age) a certain mathematics lecturer would enter the lecture room and start writing notes from the top of the left blackboard. When he reached the bottom he moved onto the middle board and then the right one. When all the boards were full he wiped out everything with a wet cloth and started again on the left. That was how he lectured! He rarely spoke - his students spent the entire hour just copying the notes. This was clearly not the best way to learn but his students had little choice. His notes were essential for the examination so best to study the notes exclusively and follow up with some question spotting shortly before the examination. It was all a rather tedious game and the students who played it best received the highest grades - but I doubt whether much mathematics was learned! Not all lecture courses were that bad but that type of experience and the factory-like regimentation of learners into specific rooms at specific times colors many people's thinking about learning and Higher Education in general.
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