There has been a lot of coverage of Massive Open Online Courses, MOOCs, of late. Stories have been run about the millions invested and the numbers interested in these free online courses open to all with electronic access.

MOOCs have also gained attention because the OU has joined with 11 other UK HE institutions to form a company, FutureLearn, which will offer a range of free, open and online courses on one learning platform. The OU’s Vice-Chancellor has declared that FutureLearn’s aim is to provide the “best quality student experience of any of the MOOCs on the planet’.

Some MOOCs are already in existance or soon to be launched. ‘Open Translation tools and practices’ was a pilot which ran from October to  December at the OU. It relied on crowd sourcing for translating open resources such as TED talks and Wikipedia articles, and encouraged blogging and citizen media projects.It explored the use of support options such as translation tools, online dictionaries and translation workflow tools. In January the first Open Learning Design Studio Massive Open Online Course (OLDS MOOC) will be launched. ‘Learning Design for a 21st Century Curriculum’ is a free and open nine week course led by the OU’s Institute of Educational Technology, in partnership with Goldsmiths University, University of Greenwich, Heriot-Watt University, University of Leicester, University of London (Centre for Distance Education and London Knowledge Lab at the Institute of Education) and the University of Oxford. The MOOC is designed to reflect the proposed process for a design inquiry project in which designers identify a design challenge, explore it to gain an understanding of its context and driving forces, generate possible solutions, implement a solution and reflect on the process as a whole and its outputs.

The launch will be broadcast live via Cloudworks here. Online viewers will be able to post comments and ask questions (if they have registered for Cloudworks). Cloudworks is one of the OU’s open educational elements. It is where you can ‘ share, find and discuss learning and teaching ideas and experiences’. It does not only enable you to share and reuse open materials but also has a system for recognizing your skills and achievements. To learn more about Cloudworks and badges, see here.

The history of the OU suggests that it is well-paced to develop MOOCs because it has already gained experience, via OpenLearn, LabSpace and other developments or how to teach a large number of people online and also structure peer support. For a historicised account of MOOCs see here.

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