This article is authored by Anjana Joji, Assistant Professor


Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are a recent expansion in higher education that experienced rapid development and achieved substantial attention from a broad range of learners. The courses consist of pre-recorded video lectures, computer graded tests and discussion forums to review course materials or to get help. MOOCs offer high quality education from worlds’ top universities, usually for free. These universities offer their courses through major providers of MOOCs viz. Coursera, edX, Udacity and Udemy.

In India, IITs, IIMs and several top notch private universities have already offering courses using Coursera and edX to their students. Other institutions in India are also proposing to implement a blended MOOC model based on a combination of online access using the open-source edX platform and customization of the edX platform to incorporate multilingual support and potentially face to face instructor support at various physical centers across the country. According to Richard Levin, CEO of Coursera “India is the second largest user base already with 800,000 students registered. It is also one of the top five countries in terms of revenue generated for Coursera” (Economic Times, 2014). Although penetration of MOOCs in IITs, IIMs and some top notch private universities is very high, there is an inadequate awareness about MOOCs.

A massive open online course (MOOC) is an online course aimed at unlimited participation and open access via the web. In addition to traditional course materials such as filmed lectures, readings, and problem sets, many MOOCs provide interactive user forums to support community interactions among students, professors, and teaching assistants (TAs). MOOCs are a recent and widely researched development in distance education which were first introduced in 2006 and emerged as a popular mode of learning in 2012.

MOOCs Defined

Massive Open Online Courses, or MOOCs, are online courses that allow participants free access and unrestricted participation to any course of their choice. Besides the conventional modes of teaching such as lectures, videos and reading material; MOOCs also provide a platform for interactive forums.


MOOCs are further divided into two categories – cMOOCs and xMOOCs.

  • cMOOCs are MOOCs that allow for dynamic development of study material. That is, instead of having a pre-planned set of reading materials and courseware, the material will be developed through online discussions and collaborations among learners taking the course across the globe.
  • xMOOCs, on the other hand, believe in the conventional approach where the courses are well-structured with pre-selected reading and reference materials.

A Brief History

MOOCs were first started in 2008, created by George Siemens and Stephen Downs, and was called “Connectivism and Connective Knowledge/2008” or CCK08. It was created as a credit course for the University of Manitoba.

CCK08 had 25 students who had paid fees for the course and around 2200 learners who took the course for free.

MOOCs really took off in 2012, when Professors Sebastian Thrun and Peter Norvig of Stanford University offered the online course called “Introduction to Artificial Intelligence”. This course had approximately 1,600,000 students participating from 190 countries. After the success of Intro to Artificial Intelligence, Thrun and Nrovig started Udacity, a business model for online knowledge sharing. There are also a few other MOOCs providers, include Coursera and EdX.

The Advantages of MOOCs:

  1. Courses are offered for free
  2. Access to courses offered by professors at the top schools
  3. Courses are available to a vast and diverse audience across the globe
  4. Learners’ performance can be monitored easily using the data captured during the start of courses


The Disadvantages of MOOCs:

  1. Can’t provide for personalized courseware and attention from a tutor
  2. It is difficult to keep track of students’ assignments and involvement
  3. Learners with disabilities and a poor Internet connection can’t use MOOCs
  4. Language can be a barrier while offering MOOCs


MOOC has been portrayed as an alternative path to access higher education in many developed countries. But the name even has not been heard by many students. The data shows that few students are already used to the concept of MOOC. Ours  being literate state will not face lots of problems in implementing MOOC for higher education so that students seem to be very enthusiastic in enrolling. Many universities have planned to implement MOOC very soon. Few new courses will be released soon. This will be a very good initiative as it can act as a motivation and encouragement for others to develop a MOOC. Since the course is free and open, students will get a chance to enhance their skills and increase their habit to access the digital contents. All in all, MOOCs are relatively recent and it is a helpful tool for a developing economy.