What should I “do,” OpenCourseWare or a MOOC? While this is not a new question – there are plenty of articles and blog posts in cyberspace that address this – I thought I would make a few comments based on what we’re currently doing here at UCI, where we have both MOOCs (offered primarily through Coursera) and OpenCourseWare.
A MOOC (massive, open, online course) is a highly designed collection of teaching materials combined with learning assessments and (in a few cases) opportunities for students to interact with each other through discussion forums and peer-graded activities. The teaching materials are comprehensive and organized much as any online (or even on-ground) course with syllabi, lectures, quizzes, etc. The goal of a MOOC is to provide students (“learners”) with a complete and well-organized package.
OpenCourseWare (or “Open Educational Resources”), on the other hand, consists primarily of teaching materials used by university faculty members in teaching their regular courses supplemented by lecture videos. There may also be videos and content from seminars, conferences, and other educational events that are not necessarily part of any formal course. Different faculty members provide different content. Here at UCI we have videos from nearly all the courses on our OCW website and many courses include PowerPoint slides, lecture notes, and links to supplementary material.
Let’s look at the similarities and, more importantly, the differences (because it is the differences that will allow you to choose between them!).
- Available over the Internet
- Free (i.e. no charge to access the content)
- Prepared and (usually) delivered by university faculty members and other experts in their fields
- Comprehensive coverage of their respective topics
- No expectation of direct contact with the creators of the content (faculty members or lecturers)
- MOOC content remains the property of the author and/or the entity offering it and cannot be used by others to teach their own courses. On the other hand, OCW carries Creative Commons licensing with the goal of having as many people as possible take and use the content, anywhere in the world, for both teaching and learning.
- MOOCs are designed for learners who want a complete, packaged learning experience (notwithstanding the vast majority of MOOC enrollees who don’t actually complete all the work needed to “pass”) in which they complete quizzes and can earn “certificates of completion” while OCW is designed for both learners and teachers, with the expectation that they will take what they want and put it to the best use that fits their needs.
- Many MOOCs are offered on a time-limited basis, like a “real” course, with defined starting and ending dates. On the other hand, OCW is available all the time, 24/7/365.
- While both MOOCs and OCW can be used to supplement or complement a “real” course (either face-to-face or online), only OCW carries the licensing that allows instructors to take and adapt (emphasis on “adapt”) content for integration into their own teaching.
- Many MOOCs offer some sort of certification or badge for students who complete all the requirements (usually quizzes and/or peer-graded assignments). This is not free – there is a nominal fee! For students who need evidence of their learning for career mobility reasons, this is a minor expense and worth the money (assuming, of course, that employers “accept” MOOC certificates as being significant). OCW does not confer certificates or badges or any other form of evidence of usage. The true benefit of learning comes not from adding to list of courses experienced, but from what one can do with their acquired knowledge afterward!
So, there it is! Both MOOCs and OCW have their places in the educational universe. The definitions and descriptions above are by no means exhaustive, but they serve as a starting point for helping you decide which one best suits your needs.