May 9, 2017

Looking for MOOCs

This blog post is ought to cover my experiences with and my ideas of improvements of MOOCs (“Massive Open Online Courses”), the currently most popular form of online courses.
There is a common distinction between cMOOCs (“c” is for “connection” and “community-orientation”), and xMOOCs (whereby “x” stands for “scalable”). The later ones, xMOOCs got to be the latest trend for a while, but have been criticized harshly in the meantime for being didactically poor and, moreover, for their general approach as a paternalistic “second-class form of education” (Bates, in Daniel 2012: 12). Online courses from privileged western institutions designed for “those outside the universities”, or to “teach the Global South” are especially problematic, as they evoke the suspicion of neo-colonialism (ibid.). I wanted to find out if the mentioned critique has been picked up and therefore tried to find a non-commercial online course based in a Sub Saharan country. Google led me to the “Handbook of Research on Active Learning and the Flipped Classroom Model in the Digital Age”, edited by Jared Keengwe in 2016. Here (p. 369) I discovered the project “Open Up ED” (, which listed an xMOOC from the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN) on the subject “History and Philosophy of Science” ( This MOOC, a lecture series, had originally been held in 2016 within 5 weeks (2 lectures per week), but its content is still available. The overall content of this xMOOC on “History and Philosophy of Science” is primarily focused on Europe, but the last two lectures are connecting the discussed topics with the local context (
There are a couple of short introductory videos, wherein the lecturers give previews to their teaching units; the units themselves are videos produced for a “digital audience” (so the videos are not just recorded public lectures). Each lecture is presented on slides in combination with the audio stream of the lecture; the according files – presentations, as well as supplementary literature – are available for download. Common for xMOOCs, participants can make use of multiple choice questions following the lectures. Additionally, it’s possible to engage in discussion by posting comments in a forum, or via web chat service.
All in all, think that MOOCs can be assessed as some substantial interim steps in the professionalization of “e-learning”. Concerning my experiences and my recommendations, I want to point out that the above mentioned xMOOC has been quite hard to discover. Of course, online courses could have a better impact if I they would be more public and easier to find, and if they were offered in different languages (e.g. with subtitles) and were provided via different platforms, including today’s most popular social media websites, portals and web services. I suggest that online courses should be completely free of any fees or registration barriers at all to ease access, and I want to emphasize that the relation of the subject of online-courses to local context matters, as well as actuality does. Consequently, online course should provide specified content which is locally relevant, and should be up-to-date to scientific discussions, as well as to current affairs. Courses could furthermore be co-authored by students to be sure that their needs are covered. Finally, if resources would permit it, I would prefer a setting which allowed talking to the lecturers directly, on the one hand, and, on the other hand, to get “professional opinions” concerning one’s submitted assignments.


  1. Thanks Harald for you blog entry! To address some questions in your last paragraph I would suggest looking at a big MOOCs platform, such as, which offers huge variety of courses in different languages and even tailored for some countries/regions. Also, a lot of students participate along with there professors in such courses (this is to address an issue of co-authorship).

  2. Nice. One question. Which social media web sites as platforms do you suggest those xmoocs go to?

  3. Thank you for your comments!
    I would recommend to provide MOOCs additionally via Facebook, to try to integrate it in Wikipedia and to upload all course-videos to Youtube.