Wednesday, 14 May 2014

A History of MOOCs

Laura Gabiger takes a long-term view in summarising the development of MOOCs (2013). She goes back to Roman times where we humans first came up with the idea of a course; which then was the summation of nine liberal arts disciplines which we needed to learn before we could take on the study of our profession in medicine, divinity or law. 

She considers the delivery channel: in the past we solely used people to explain ideas they were taught. Then we moved onto books, which were once worth a King's ransom: today they can be purchased for $1 plus postage on Abebooks.com or borrowed without cost from the local library. The knowledge within them is more or less accessible to everyone in my privileged corner of the world. The knowledge in books could be memorised, more lately copied onto paper and can now be bookmarked on the internet (Gabiger, 2013). 

We flirted with using TV: Britain's Open University through the 70s and 80s is probably the best known, and most successful foray into this area: but it was a pretty-much one-way model. The Open University started to get more network-oriented in the 1990s by using email, and delivering CDs and DVDs (Marques, 2013).

Surprisingly, the first MOOC was delivered in 2008 (Marques, 2013). University of Manitoba lecturers, Stephen Downes and George Siemens delivered "Connectivism and Connective Knowledge/2008", this MOOC used a variety of channels - Facebook, wikis, blogs and forums - to aid student engagement (Marques, 2013).

Rolling forward to 2012, Stanford academics Sebastian Thrun and Peter Norvig delivered an "Introduction to Artificial Intelligence” free online. Because it carried the Stanford brand, over 160,000 students in 190 countries signed up, making this the first truly ‘massive’ MOOC.  With the learning from this course, Thrun created Udacity. Two other Stanford lecturers, Andrew Ng and Daphne Koller were prime movers for Coursera, then Harvard and MIT clubbed up to form EdX.

Two years on, we also have the Khan Academy, delivering maths to students worldwide, for free.  The big four.

From here on in, it should start to get interesting!

Sam

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