From MOOCs to SPOCs to …?

It’s always nice to know what goes on behind the scenes with respect to major reports, and in the UK Stephen Haggard has provided fascinating insight (for me, anyway) into the emergence of The Maturing of the MOOC. It seems that Stephen was the lead author of the team which produced this 123 page report for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, and guess what their timeline was? One month! Yes, just one month for a comprehensive literature and policy review.

mooc pageYou’ll find this and other insights in Stephen’s piece ‘MOOCs; from mania to mundanity‘ in the Times Higher Education. It’s a nice little piece (among the seeming thousands on MOOCs currently cluttering every higher education publication), and may even inspire you to read the report. It does have some good stuff, with reference to most of the usual suspects (John Daniel, Tony Bates, etc.), and sound, rational discussion. The contents list provides a clue to the flavour of the report:

Executive Summary

  • The headlines
  • Conflicting perspectives on MOOCs divide education communities
  • Learning Practitioners disagree about the value of MOOCs
  • Formal comprehensive analyses of MOOCs mostly concur that they are disruptive and possibly threatening to current HE models
  • Reporting of MOOC learner experiences is positive
  • The MOOC is maturing – and engaging with its business and accreditation issues
  • Literature Summary


MOOCS – the cribsheet


  • Report Structure
  • Economist Intelligence Unit
  • Sloan Consortium
  • Austrade
  • Sub-conclusion: Formal analysis of MOOCs commissioned by authorities
  • Sub-conclusion: Journalistic and press writing about MOOCs

Accreditation – a route to payment 

  • The US Community College sector – a possible model for stronger MOOC engagement
  • Specific Issues – Technology

But what about the SPOC, I hear you ask? I suppose we should have predicted it, but a few of the big boys (e.g. Harvard) are now offering ‘small private online courses’. As explained in ‘Harvard plans to boldly go with ‘Spocs’‘, such courses are “still free and delivered through the internet, but access is restricted to much smaller numbers, tens or hundreds, rather than tens of thousands.”

Nice move, eh! Certainly makes certification much easier. If they keep going like this, we’ll be right back where we started.

photo credit: mathplourde via photopin cc

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