By Adrian Mandela Grunder, Afroditi Anastasaki, Hussein Khalil Dib.

Complementary to the traditional education in class, the Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) were introduced in 2006 as a new, in-distance education tool aimed at unlimited participation and open access via the web. In addition to traditional course materials, such as lectures and readings, MOOCs provide interactive courses through forums in order to create and enhance community interactions among users. MOOCs are a recent development in in-distance education and in the past decade gained a lot of popularity in learning notions. Early MOOCs often emphasized open-access features, such as open licensing of content, structure and learning goals, to promote the reuse and remixing of resources. Some later MOOCs use closed licenses for their course materials while maintaining free access for students. [Reference].


While this new way of education, at its time, is being perceived as a disruptive one within the societal and academic environments, MOOCs can be considered to be highly controversial for the purpose they intent to provide. In particular, there are concerns emerging regarding the way the former will shape the future of higher, mostly post-secondary education, as there are main patterns implemented and usually seen in the way the platforms function and the classes being taught. To better understand this controversy, we should take into consideration the fact that high reputational and major institutions or independent platforms collaborating with such institutions, are the main providers of MOOCs, holding and encouraging a top-down approach (structured classes from professors to students) in the way of teaching. In this way, a challenge in facilitating meaningful conversation among all actors involved – and what could the intimacy from face-to-face communication brings, arises. The concerns are not limited to this aspect, but they expand to many more problematics; the growth in MOOC participation has been concentrated almost entirely in the world’s most affluent countries [Reference], thus contrasting the facilitation of accessibility to education the open platforms promise to have, reaching only a small percentage of the world’s population and focusing on existing consumers of higher education. In this regard, in places with limited access to education tools, people who are not MOOC-privileged are not provided with the opportunity to become online learners. Other controversial issues include the various impacts of MOOCs from a geographical or demographical point of view; the level of importance to different educational levels e.g. in elementary or primary education vs. higher education, the content and discipline provided; are MOOCs more easily designed for technical content rather than social and humanities’ disciplines, the vagueness of improved or cheapend educational experience and their longer-term effects on the structure and future of residential universities.

Actors description

Throughout our research we identified five main actor groups.

Teachers & Educational Science as providers of educational knowledge

Educators provide very useful knowledge about how to effectively teach and transfer knowledge. They shaped the education in the past and are shaping the future of it through participation in the MOOC design process.

Universities, Teachers & Professors as creators of MOOCs

Universities and their personnel is strongly involved in the design and creation of MOOCs. Universities have a strong interest in broadening their audience and transferring knowledge to the broad public.

Science as evaluator of effectiveness of MOOCs

Science takes the role of the neutral observer in the development of MOOCs. Scientist assess the effective- and usefulness of MOOCs by looking at different factors like completion rate or similar.

MOOC producers (Xuetang X, Coursera, edX, Udacity, etc.)

The MOOC producing enterprises are (mostly) privately owned corporations working together with Universities and Research Institutes to provide free quality education for everyone. They, however, also are profit oriented, several possible sources of income exist [Reference].

Public Authorities as provider of offline education and setter of Curriculas

Governments have a strong interest in the education of their citizens. They (mostly) provide free education on a primary level. Secondary and tertiary education oftentimes is rather exclusive.

Actors Stance

The following table was assembled after a brief research on the various actors. The references are noted in the bibliography. Every row shows pro and cons argument statements from the noted actor. It however does not claim any notion of completeness.



Teachers/Education Science as providers of educational knowledge

[Reference A]
[Reference B]

  • Low cost to widespread
  • Reach to underserved students
  • Maintain traditional values in education

Universities/Teachers/Professor as creators of MOOCs

[Reference A]

  • Reasons for teaching a MOOC: altruism, research exposure, and the opportunity to experiment with new technology
  • Little data on professors experience with MOOCs
  • Concerns about content ownership
Science as evaluator of effectiveness of MOOCs
[Reference A]
[Reference B]  


[Reference C]

  • Allow people to take courses with no limits on time and geographic locations.
  • Helping universities outsource their online master’s degrees for professional.
  • With the rapid development of online education, few people put emphasis on the quality of online education.
  • The growth in MOOC participation has been concentrated almost entirely in the world’s most affluent countries
  • MOOCs—low completion rates (2)—has not improved over 6 years.

MOOC producers

[Reference A]

[Reference B]

  • Non-limitation in time and space.
  • High-quality courses, tailored teaching, diversified learning styles, and academic certification.
  • A world where anyone, anywhere can transform their life by accessing the world’s best learning experience.
  • Every course on Coursera is taught by top instructors from the world’s best universities and educational institutions. Courses include recorded video lectures, auto-graded and peer-reviewed assignments, and community discussion forums. When you complete a course, you’ll receive a shareable electronic Course Certificate.
  • Supervised, good-learning atmosphere, and better interaction in the classroom students choose offline courses.

Public Authorities as provider of offline education and setter of Curriculas

[Reference A]

[Reference B]

  • Prospects: Grants as a potential game changer for MOOCs
  • International political context


Ongoing Innovation / Solutions & Conclusion

There exist several innovations in the MOOC landscape. Minerva School in San Francisco for example developed the active learning platform, an attempt to create an actual classroom atmosphere where students interact, develop ideas, work together and discuss topics led by a professor. The project cannot be seen as a replacement of MOOCs since the factor of scalability is not given, you still need a professor to live teach a limited amount of students.

The approach developed by the authors also tries to create an inverted classroom by having a format, where students interview their lecturers about course related issues. The form ideally is always adaptable and replicable. The provided technical guidelines assure a certain degree of quality. The idea is to involve students more in the transfer of the gathered knowledge and deepen their commitment to continuing learning. The solution targets courses with sustainability related content, since this is the major interest of the authors and this also allows a specialisation and focus of the platform. As soon as some content is crowdsourced and available, users can create playlists which can represent programs.




The quality of format and content of the courses must always be ensured, an identification and adherence to the program must be guaranteed, amongst many other challenges. We believe in online education and will strive to give inputs, work on solutions and innovations towards a better learning experience for all.




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