Quality of Massive Open Online Courses

Stephen Downes, , May 14, 2013
Commentary by Stephen Downes

In this contribution I address the question of assessing the quality of massive open online courses. The assessment of the quality of anything is fraught with difficulties, depending as it does on some commonly understood account of what would count as a good example of the thing, what factors constitute success, and how that success against that standard is to be measured. With massive open online courses, it is doubly more difficult, because of the lack of a common definition of the MOOC itself, and because of the implication of external factors in the actual perception and performance of the MOOC.

Moreover, it is to my mind far from clear that there is agreement regarding the purpose of a MOOC to begin with, and without such agreement discussions of quality are moot. Let me begin, then, with a statement describing what I take a MOOC to be. I will then address what I believe ought to be the purpose of a MOOC, the success factors involved in serving that purpose, the design features that impact success, and finally, questions regarding the measurement of those features.


This is a contribution to the MOOC Quality Project (which posted part 3, 'MOOC Success Factors, on the blog, with the final edited version intended for eventual publication somewhere, and possibly other sections on other blogs).

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