Saturday, October 27, 2012

MOOC Report (Sep-Oct 2012) assembles information about MOOCs offered by various providers, so we feel it is our responsibility to share the course statistics.

The following chart shows the breakdown of all announced courses by providers (to avoid confusion in a situation when “Coursera offers a Stanford course”, we will call MOOC companies like Coursera and Udacity “providers”, while referring to traditional universities as “universities). Note that for MIT Open Courseware we counted only complete courses:


However, not all of the announced courses are really available – many of them are not even scheduled. The following chart shows the same breakdown taking into account only active courses, i.e. the courses that are immediately available either in full instructor-led mode or for self-learning:

Even though the MOOC approach started from solely computer science classes, they have definitely broadened their reach to a variety of different courses. The following chart shows the number of courses offered by category:

On average, there is a course starting every day in September and October. November and December are quiet due to the holiday season, but beginning of the next year promises to be busy (the selection for January/February of 2013 will keep changing as providers will be adding new courses or scheduling the announced courses).

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MOOC History

The term MOOC originated in Canada and stands for Massive Open Online Courseware. In September 2008, Dave Cormier and Bryan Alexander coined the acronym to describe an open online course at the University of Manitoba designed by George Siemens and Stephen Downes. The course, “Connectivism and Connective Knowledge”, was presented to 25 fee-paying students on campus and 2,300 other students from the general public who took the online class free of charge [1].

A major breakthrough came in fall 2011 when over 160,000 people signed up for a course “Artificial Intelligence” offered by Sebastian Thrun and Peter Norvig through Thrun's start-up Know Labs [2]. At the same time two more courses “Machine Learning” by Andrew Ng and “Introduction to Databases” by Jennifer Widom were launched on the platform that now is known as Coursera. The overwhelming success of these courses started the revolution in education and started up several companies: Daphne Koller and Andrew Ng founded Coursera; Sebastian Thrun with two colleagues – Udacity.

Later, in the fall of 2011, MIT launched MITx – a free and open platform for online education [3] . MITx has now morphed into edX with the addition of Harvard and UC Berkeley, and University of Texas to join in 2013.

By the end of October 2012, Coursera has 33 partner universities, more than 1.7 million registered students from about 200 countries with Udacity close behind.

The industry continues to grow – there are more than a dozen “online universities” offering hundreds of courses worldwide; several companies provide platforms for creating and publishing MOOCs.

In addition to universities, product companies started launching courses that teach how to use their product. For example, Google launched the course Power Searching with Google, 10gen (the company that develops MongoDB and does support, training, and consulting)  is offering two courses are MongoDB for Developers and MongoDB for DBAs

Courses differ in terms of the software they use; availability: most of them have college semester schedule, but others are always available to sign up; many are offering certificates.

While researches, journalists, and educators discussing the winning models and pros and cons of massive online open courses, there are obvious benefits to the learners:
  • They are free
  • They are high quality courses from the world famous institutions with lectures, homework assignments, quizzes, and examinations. It’s guaranteed that students will learn something meaningful from them.
  • Most of the courses are highly social, with forums’ discussions and real time feedback
  • One can study from the comfort of one's home
  • Students gain practical skills that help in their carrier development[4]
  • It’s fun!