Open courses


In 2012 we saw increased interest in open courses with press coverage focusing mainly on Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) although these have been around for several years.

The term ‘MOOC’ was coined by Dave Cormier of the University of Prince Edward Island, and Senior Research Fellow Bryan Alexander of the National Institute for Technology in Liberal Education in response to an open online course designed and led by George Siemens of Athabasca University and Stephen Downes of the National Research Council (Canada). (source: wikipedia)

There are a range of different models for open courses, and they are not all Massive (in a student numbers sense). Structure may be imposed or not, assessment may be included or not, learners can be fully open or registered paying students. It is useful to distinguish between different kinds of open course.

There is increasing reference to cMOOCs and xMOOCs to distinguish between two of the most prevalent MOOC models. cMOOCs are based on connectivist principles of knowledge creation encouraging collaborative content creation, creativity, autonomy, and social networked learning (examples include CCK08 – The first MOOC,

Personal Learning Networks (PLENK2010) CCK11 – Connectivism and collective knowledge LAK11 -Learning and Knowledge Analytics (LAK)) whilst the term xMOOCs is applied to very large scale high profile courses delivered largely through traditions means with a focus on didactic pedagogy such as lectures and testing. The latter have attracted significant funding in the form of sponsorship and advertising revenue and are seen to support marketing through highly branded and publicised courses attracting thousands of students at a time (examples include Stanford AI Course,  Coursera courses  Udacity courses Khan Academy)

These models are in their infancy and continuously being developed at the moment, prompting much discourse and occasional controversy. Learners attending these early MOOCs are often investigating the model of learning as much as the subject matter of the course.  Between the two lie a whole range of hybrids.

MOOCs are generally specifically designed as an open course and are aimed at a global level.

Open Boundary courses –  opening existing ‘for credit’ courses

Another open course model that challenges the larger MOOC models are where existing (for credit courses) are made accessible to open students. This type of model offers potential for real disruption to traditional pedagogy and radical rethinking of roles of open learners, registered students, educators and practitioners in the field. Examples of this type of course are the US based Digital Storytelling course DS106 originally base at the University of Mary Washington and the UKOER project Coventry Open Media Classes (COMC) courses at Coventry University.

On these courses learners and teachers become co-producers and co-consumers of content and roles and boundaries become blurred. Digital literacies feature strongly as all participants need to be able to effectively use technologies to share, collaborate and review learning activities and resources.

OER and open courses

OER can be used as source materials or created as part of the learning activities in open courses. Courses which incorporate authentication systems have a negative impact on the openness of content produced and lack of management or structure can result in discoverability and access problems when large numbers of students are involved. Curation has become a vital role for those providing open courses.



Open Practices briefing paper


Learning and Teaching considerations