Massive Open Online Courses represent a young paradigm of e-learning within the higher-education sector, which has become more and more popular and widespread since 2011. For a better understanding of the term MOOC we would like to start with spelling out this acronym.

M assive
Potentially thousands or even ten-thousands of people participate, which means a highly scalable mode of teaching from the viewpoint of an instructor. There is a huge diversity with respect to geographical, cultural or biographical background among participants, which results in multiple perspectives and ideas within the learning community.

O pen
Everybody can participate as long as he or she has a sufficient internet connection and a valid e-mail address. There are no formal or institutional access hurdles. Participation in the course is for free.

O nline
Participation is conducted completely online and so is the course maintenance by the teaching staff. Modern web technologies enable access to multimedia learning resources, working on tasks to apply one's knowledge and interaction between participants within a virtual learning community. All these features are browser-based without the need to install multiple applications on one's local machine.

C ourse
Some structural elements from the traditional education setting are preserved, other aspects differ completely: In most MOOCs there is an official starting and closing date and typically a new chapter is released each week. This provides some structure to ensure all learners are on the same page. In sharp contrast to the traditional lecture setting, within a specific week learners are free to choose when (in the morning, late at night?) and where (at the breakfast table, while commuting to work, or in the library?) they spend their time to browse the learning resources and work on tasks. They communicate asynchronously with the other participants to discuss the content and help each other with open questions. Curriculum design emphasizes breaking down each chapter into smaller chunks of information about specific concepts. Participants receive instant and automated feedback about one's knowledge acquisition.

To sum it up, Massive Open Online Courses are a low-threshold (since web based and without any access hurdles) and flexible (learning independent from time and location) mode of learning within the higher education or vocational training sector - and an excellent opportunity for life-long learners.

In contrast to more traditional modes of e-learning, which in essence have often been used simply for distributing text-based learning materials, a MOOC emphasizes usage of multimedia resources like videos, animations and info graphics, enables quizzes for instant feedback and allows interaction within a diverse global learning community. Just going online is not a sufficient criterion for high-quality teaching and learning. But designing a MOOC within an integrated online platform allows to bring up the fundamental question about what a good learning experience consists in and to carefully examine the learning process.

Courses at openHPI ( range from topics like internet security and offering programming workshops for beginners to more complex classes about latest developments in database technologies for advanced learners. All these topics reflect the fields of research Hasso Plattner Institute is renowned for.

Taking a MOOC at openHPI involves the following features:

  • Using a bunch of short videos each week the professor explains theoretical concepts and their interrelation and demonstrates how to apply the knowledge.
  • Self-tests are integrated with every learning unit and enable the learner to get direct feedback about his or her understanding of the acquired concepts.
  • Programming tasks support the application of theoretical knowledge and foster skill development.
  • Peer assessment allows the teaching team to ask open questions and to integrate practical tasks which can hardly be graded automatically. The evaluation is done by other course participants by means of given grading rubrics. Peer assessment on openHPI can be either structured as an individual peer assessment (work is submitted by every participant individually) or in a team (team peer assessment).
  • Communication within the course forum or smaller online learning groups also supports the learning process: Within a MOOC setting with thousands of participants the professor cannot communicate with the students on an individual level. But it is quite probable that another course member will have a good answer to open questions. And (flipping around the perspective) explaining to others in one's own words requires elaborating the deep structure of the content and thus promotes deeper understanding.
  • All those participants committed to get a Record of Achievement additionally work on weekly homework and participate in a final exam.

This page was last changed at Fri, 12 Mar 2021 14:26:51 +0000.