This post has nothing to do with singing (you wouldn’t want to hear me singing anyway; Jeff, yes, but not me) and everything to do with the two types of massive open online courses, or MOOCs: cMOOCs and xMOOCs.
What’s in a Name
Stephen Downes, the well-respected Canadian commentator on and designer of online learning, gets credit for coming up with the terms cMOOC and xMOOC about a year ago.
In cMOOC, the “c” stands for “connectivist” per Downes; others say “constructivist.” In either case, the point is that the early MOOCs—certainly the 2008 MOOC (arguably the first MOOC) called “Connectivism and Connective Knowledge” led by Downes and George Siemens—were grounded in the idea that learners play an important role in creating the learning. They have to get their hands dirty in making sense of the subject and applying it.
The “c” could also stand for “classic,” as cMOOC is a term that emerged after the fact—much as digital clocks and watches necessitated the need for the term analog to describe the devices we used to use to tell time. cMOOC emerged because of a spate of MOOC activity, largely in the academic space, that was decidedly different from the cMOOCs.
These mostly academic xMOOCs (think Udacity, Coursera, and EdX) don’t emphasize contructivism in the same way as cMOOCs. The xMOOCs tend to be more instructivist—in other words, they emulate the old classroom model, where there’s a set syllabus and a defined body of knowledge and, even if the professor isn’t front and center, she’s still there in the sense that the course is proscriptive about what needs to be learned.
What You Should Consider
I’m not going to say cMOOCs are better than xMOOCs or vice-versa (although Downes has been quoted as saying cMOOCs will prevail as the more mature model that xMOOCs will move to over time). My point today is simply awareness—know that all MOOCs are not made the same. And as associations begin to seriously experiment with MOOCs, they have a choice about which model to follow.
I’ll argue xMOOCs are going to be more familiar and comfortable for associations—radical constructivism can be chaotic for learners as well as designers and developers. But that doesn’t make them better.
Which model is best will come down to the purpose of the education, and you and your association need to actively think through what you’re trying to accomplish with a particular learning product.
To further complicate the issue, many associations may be looking to MOOCs for what they look to many of their other education products for—a source of non-dues revenue. But if you’re thinking of charging, is it still a MOOC? Some might want to call it a MOC at that point, arguing (as Apostolos Koutropoulos does in Learning Solutions Magazine) that a price tag cancels the open part of the acronym and leaves only a massive online course.
All food for thought, as you consider what a MOOC might look like for your association.
P.S. If your association (or one you know of) is offering a MOOC, of either flavor, I’d love to hear about it—please comment below.
P.P.S. Jeff did an interview with George Siemens on MOOCs as part of his Leading the Learning Revolution podcast—I recommend it.