MOOCs (massive open online courses) are courses delivered over the web to potentially thousands of students at a time. In a MOOC, lectures are typically “canned,” quizzes and testing are automated, and student participation is voluntary. They attain large scale by reducing instructor contact with individual students, though some models allow student feedback to partly guide discussion. Initial MOOCs have often been from disciplines that lend themselves to quantitative assessment, such as engineering, computer science, and math. However, MOOCs are becoming applicable to all fields as the platforms enable assessment methods such as peer review. MOOCs present an opportunity for institutions to experiment with extending their brand or to diversify their instructional portfolio, and they might also catalyze new approaches to credentialing.
This Brief was revised December 2012