Within popular media, the massive open online course (MOOC) is presented as a novel idea created by maverick professors and further developed with a goal to further democratize education on bases of quality and cost. The perception of this sequence of events as modular history has perpetuated a difficulty in developing MOOC-related research and critique within the fields of distance and online education. At the center of this struggle is the MOOC acronym: its initial development was in 2008, and its use today happens in opposition to the theoretical and pedagogical elements of the 2008 MOOC. This paper endeavors to define the MOOC by tracing the history of both movements both around and beyond the simple acronym. After reviewing the existing literature and analyzing the theoretical and pedagogical pillars of both movements, the paper concludes that the term MOOC is too problematic based on its separate and ideologically opposed histories and theories on learning. However, MOOC is seen to be a beneficial term for defining the sociocultural phenomenon of scalable online learning.


MOOC, design, history



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