Education sector experts all seem to agree on the fact that ‘massive open online courses’ (MOOCs) are only in their infancy, given the potential of a range of innovative tools and approaches which are now appearing.

MOOCs: Wider Range of Tools Driving Diversification

Since online channels have become available to most of the general public, the general approach to learning – including pedagogical methods – has been turned upside down by the widespread dissemination of online courses, especially the recently-developed large-scale interactive-participative approach known as Massive Open Online Courses, or MOOCs. As university fees have tended to rise continuously over the last decade or so, so the availability of free-access online courses has become more widespread. There was however a general consensus among the speakers at the first Le MOOC workshop, held in Paris on 30 May, that we are just at the very beginning. Having changed the way we access learning, MOOCs are now themselves been driven to change by the popularity of Web 2.0 tools. Collaborative working, open source and mobile applications will henceforth all be part of the services they are able (and expected) to offer.

MOOCs are bound to diversify

Mathieu Cisel, studying for a PhD at the Cachan École Normale Supérieure, a prestigious higher education college near Paris, who was a speaker at one of the workshop sessions, underlined that “MOOCs will have to diversify, especially in the direction of mobile apps.” He explained to L'Atelier that mobile apps, whether designed to provide access to course material or to a discussion forum, will in future form part of a modular system for online courses, whereby the core content will be supplemented by add-ons, extra functionality accessed via mobile apps. “In the early days there was no call for apps in the field of MOOCs but in the future we should expect to see more and more of them, serving as an interface between users, both teacher-to-student and student-to-student,” predicted Mathieu Cisel. But aside from the mobile trend, the experts at the workshop saw other changes on the horizon for MOOCs.

The rise of new approaches

For instance, Alberto Abella, the Spanish founder of OpenMooc, an online platform he set up in seven weeks and which now boasts 120,000 students, revealed that “open source has become a very powerful and indispensable approach to creating our MOOCs.”  Pierre Dubuc, who is co-founder of Site du Zéro, (‘Site for Dummies’), which provides online courses in IT skills for beginners, told L’Atelier that his website is based on the “semi-collaborative principle.” Site du Zéro, which is one of the pioneers of online courses in France, now has 570,000 users and 15,000 pages of course material. Dubuc explained that “the content is created and disseminated by a core group of qualified specialists, but any user can subsequently take part in ongoing course development by pointing out errors or suggesting additional information.” This collaborative approach is clearly moving towards an open source model, which has already been adopted wholeheartedly in many other fields of enterprise.

By Guillaume Parodi