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MOOC Around The World, Part 6 – “MOOCish” Online Ed Resources

Gerd Altmann via Pixabay

Gerd Altmann via Pixabay

Hello and welcome back to another part of the “MOOC around the world” series. Some of you might have a sense of déjà vu, but this is not a repetition of my other five parts, but indeed the sixth part of my MOOC journey. I know it’s like a never-ending story, but MOOCs mushroom faster than I can write and more parts might follow. ;-)

For those who just joined the MOOC marathon, my original goal was to explore all the MOOC resources outside of the best-known platforms in the United States (Coursera, edX and Udacity) to draw attention to less familiar opportunities, both in English and in other languages. Here is a short review of the previous legs of the journey.

Starting in Germany, I traveled through several European countries including the U.K., Ireland, France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain and Portugal (part 1 and part 2). Then I embarked for distant shores, trying to identify all the MOOCs in Australia, India and South America (part 3). In part 4 of my voyage, I toured through Canada, which is where MOOCs were originated by educators George Siemens and Stephen Downes. I also took a a quick dash through the U.S. to look at open courses on less-familiar platforms, and in part 5 I sampled some of the entirely “independent” MOOCs in the U.S. not offered in a platform at all.

Well, along the way, I naturally missed a few interesting cases, and many more online classes have become available after I passed through. You’ll often see those mentioned in the comments, and I’m collecting notes for a “sights I missed” trip in the future. I also hope to get a chance to fill in the white spaces on my travel map by looking into the growing number of MOOCs in the Middle East, Asia, Africa and New Zealand soon. (For example, one MOOC in New Zealand was recently announced on the subject of Data Mining.)

The problem of classifying MOOCs

MOOCs are offered not only from universities using their own or a shared platform, but also from nonprofit organizations, trade associations or single businesses or even from an individual using free online course builder tools to create their own MOOC, like Ignatia de Waard did to organize mobiMOOC. (You can learn more about her experience in her book MOOC Yourself, which is reviewed here by Debbie Morrison.)

In the first three parts of my series I did not differentiate between the types of MOOCs and whether they have a university affiliation or not, or if they are organized by a group of people or by an individual. However, by the time I got to part 4 of this series, the number of MOOCs had grown so much that I began to organize them in different categories.

  • Platforms that host their own courses  or from multiple universities.
  • MOOCs from universities that run them independently outside these platforms.
  • Totally unaffiliated MOOCs, not from a university and not on a named platform.

I am not the first one who comes up with a MOOC classification. Most of us know that are often identified as either cMOOCs or xMOOCsDonald Clark uses a taxonomy based on pedagogy to categorize MOOCs in eight groups, and Gráinne Conole utilize a 12 dimension rubric to evaluate and design MOOCs. Recently I used Conole’s rubric to evaluate the #COER13, a German cMOOC about OER.

Does this count as a MOOC?

As you probably know, MOOCs are just one form of online ed, and alongside them are many interesting and useful resources that have a lot in common with MOOCs but maybe don’t quite fit the definition. So, apart from the question of how to classify and evaluate MOOCs, there is also the question of how to define what a MOOC is, which is somewhat contentious, not to mention still in flux. You can read more about the definition this site is operating with in “What Is a Massive Open Online Course Anyway?”

Consequently, while working on this MOOC Around the World series, I ended up with a list of “MOOCish” online education resources that fell outside that definition. The editor, Robert McGuire, and I talked about this often and found ourselves using the metaphor of an extended family. That’s how I came up with the new category called MOOClatives.

So, this sixth part to the series is about the relatives of MOOCs – MOOClatives. These are online ed resources that have a lot in common with MOOCs but do not quite fit the frame because they are either not massive, not entirely free, not really a complete course or do not easily fit in the above classifications.

Meet the MOOClatives: The other big three (or four)

We’ve had enough words, so buckle up and let’s get going on our visit to the extended family. We’ll start with the four online ed resources that most frequently get mentioned in the same breath with MOOCs.

First stop, Uncle Sal’s place. You probably know the story of how Salman Khan started out tutoring his nieces and nephews in junior high math with videos he recorded at home, found himself responding to other people asking for advice on his YouTube channel and ultimately founded Khan Academy.

The non-profit educational website launched in 2006 now has currently has over 4,200 video lectures in everything from arithmetic to physics, finance and history and a goal of changing education for the better by providing a free world-class education for anyone anywhere. All of the Khan Academy’s content is licensed under Creative Commons (Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike – BY-NC-SA). The teacher toolkit provides ideas, materials and inspiring stories from teachers.

The hugely popular site is often referred to as a MOOC, but the lectures can be more understood as a modular system to pick from and mix, rather than as a course. The lectures are self-paced, and progress is measured with a points and badges system scaled to the degree of difficulty.

The Saylor Foundation from The Constitution Foundation is a non-profit organization headquartered in Washington, DC. which runs the online ed site The foundation advocates for the open education movement, and content is licensed under a creative commons (Attribution CC BY). has been mentioned often before on this site and is a very close relative in the extended family of MOOCs. Their courses are free and on a wide variety of subjects at a K-12 level, college level and with a professional development focus. In many ways, their model resembles Udacity’s, only not so limited to technology topics, and the content is more open. But, probably because the courses are self-paced and asynchronous, they are not massive, and students generally will be working in isolation compared to most MOOCs.

One of the interesting things about Saylor is that they also outline recommended sequences of courses, much like a college student would take in their major. They provide certificates, an ePortfolio, discussion forums and a testing center. The content matrix is helpful to find out whether courses are peer reviewed and what tools and resources they use. A noteworthy feature is that the matrix color key indicates when a course is optimized for tablets or mobile phones.

Another interesting thing about Saylor is that it is possible to earn college credit for some of their courses through a partnership with a handful of U.S. colleges and universities. Also, several of the classes have been vetted and recommended by the National College Credit Recommendation Service.

With nearly 1 million students and 6,000 Courses Udemy is one of the major players in online education and is sometimes named in the same breath with edX and Coursera (and sometimes confused with Udacity). However, most of the courses on Udemy charge fees, and overall it is more oriented toward workplace skills than college-level study. A small number of the classes, however, are free.

Udemy was founded in 2010 and, like some other platforms we’re looking at, allows instructors to build and host their own online courses courses. An instructor can upload videos, PowerPoint presentations, PDFs and audio files to the content platform. Discussion boards allow instructors to engage and interact with users. It’s up to the instructor’s discretion whether to charge for a course or not.

The fourth major online ed resource that often gets mentioned alongside MOOCs is iTunes U, which features materials from more than 150 colleges and universities, including elite U.S. universities like MIT, Stanford, Yale and U.C. Berkley. Sometimes the material is a single lecture and sometimes an entire course. Like with Saylor, the self-paced and asynchronous format means the classes aren’t really massive. During my studies for my degree at the Open University in the United Kingdom (which also offers a lot of content on iTunes U), I often downloaded informative podcasts about my course of study and listened to them while running. You need to download iTunes to access the content.

Pick-your-own education resources

Those well-known online ed resources only scratch the surface of what’s available, though. We have a long way to go on our visit to all the MOOC relatives.

Let’s look next at some more platforms that, like Udemy, allow teachers to create their own course or, like Khan Academy, to pick and choose elements to use in their own classroom. Some of the platforms are licensed under Creative Commons allowing adaptation of the content, following thus the Open Educational Resource (OER) movement that is fortunately increasing.

Gerd Altmann via Pixabay

Gerd Altmann via Pixabay

P2PU (Peer-to-Peer University)  is not a traditional university, but a grassroots open education project that organizes learning outside of institutional walls and gives learners recognition for their achievements. Founded in 2009 with charitable funding, it now has more than 50 courses available in almost as many course languages.

Openness, community and peer learning are their key values. Leveraging materials openly available online, P2PU enables high-quality low-cost education. At P2PU, people work together and share their knowledge to learn a particular topic by completing tasks, assessing individual and group work and providing constructive feedback. The social element is emphasized at P2PU.

Unlike with other MOOC platforms, anyone can create a course as well as take one. All material is provided under the Creative Commons Share-Alike. Courses are not accredited but learners have the opportunity for recognition of achievements through the Open Badges project.

Curriki is a non-profit, free, open education service. The name Curriki is made up of the words “curriculum” and “wiki”. Curriki’s mission is to help equalize access to education globally. Therefore, learning materials are freely available to educators, students and parents around the world.

Curriki’s model is to develop materials through community contributors and to deliver curricula and open educational resources globally. A community of 8.5 million global users from almost 200 countries has so far designed more than 48,000 Open Educational Resources (OER), including digital textbooks, learning videos and interactive resources. The material is primarily focused on K-12 education.

The material is peer-reviewed to create a culture of continuous improvement. The majority of the OER on the Curriki site fall under a Creative Commons license and can be adapted as needed to particular requirements inside or outside of the classroom.

MIT OpenCourseware

MIT OpenCourseware

MIT OpenCourseWare (MIT OCW) is an initiative of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. MIT OpenCourseWare makes the materials used in the teaching of almost all of MIT’s subjects available on the Web, free of charge. The project has been around since 2002, and some of the materials are the foundation of classes now being offered on edX.

More than 2,000 courses are licensed under Creative Commons BY-NC-SA. The majority of courses offer lecture notes, activities and exams, and some also include interactive web demonstrations, complete textbooks written by MIT professors and and video lectures. As this map shows, MIT OpenCourseWare is accessed worldwide with an average of about 1 million visits each month.

Similar in concept to MIT’s open course initiative but not as well known and not as extensive is Open Yale, a project of Yale University that shares full video and course materials from its undergraduate courses. It’s been around since 2007 and includes materials from about 42 courses. It’s been somewhat inactive in recent years as Yale experiments with other online models and readies its first MOOCs via Coursera.


“Knowledge is inspiration. If you have it, we hope you’ll share it” is the advertising slogan from Versal, another new platform in the MOOC landscape. Think of an idea, create a course and share it with the world. Versal wants to encourage teachers to create their own interactive courses. They also have a grant program right now for NGO-related classes.

Like many other platforms Versal follows a DIY (do-it-yourself) approach by inviting teachers to create courses with interactive gadgets, no coding required. JavaScript API will be available soon for those who can code. Versal coursebuilder facilitates you designing and publishing your own MOOCs. CEO Gregor Freund believes that “existing courses are really just PowerPoints or videos” and wants to revolutionize online courses with his “gadgets” – tools that allows educators to create interactive learning activities that students can study, manipulate and model.

The new platform offer has three sample courses up: Anatomy and Modeling in Maya (a 3-D illustrator program), Color Play: Color Theory, and Introduction to Disease Ecology. Self-paced, open enrollment. The platform is still in beta, but looks promising.

Open Learning Initiative (OLI)  is a grant-funded group at Carnegie Mellon University, offering innovative online courses to anyone who wants to learn or teach. Their aim is to create high-quality courses and contribute original research to improve learning and transform higher education. OLI is one of these platforms that allows you to take courses as learners, but providing as well the chance for teachers to create their own courses. They have eighteen open and free courses in subjects such as American English Speech or Anatomy & Physiology. One future course will be Arabic For Economic Exchange.

OLI claims to be more successful than other platforms where students work at their own pace, because their learning platform provides students with targeted feedback and self-assessment tools so they’ll know where they’re excelling and where they need more practice. Courses are licensed under Creative Commons Attribution: Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 License. The Open Learning Initiative (OLI) does not grant credit for the completion of any course. OLI also does not provide any verification or certification of completion.

ThinkCERCA is a web-based platform offering tools and content for teachers to create personalized critical thinking instruction. Teachers can design and deliver their own lessons or use lessons from the Thinkcerca library. Eileen Murphy, founder and CEO of Thinkcerca states that “our vision is to ensure equitable access to 21st opportunities for all learners who have the potential to contribute to making the world more humane and sustainable.” ThinkCERCA emphasizes critical thinking and literacy skills. It aims to support collaboration between teachers by providing a simple framework of sharing, using and personalizing lessons.

Online courses that are not completely open

As we discussed above with Udemy, some interesting and mooc-ish seeming online ed resources are not open enough to be characterized as MOOCs the way we define things, either because they charge fees or don’t admit all comers.

For example, University of the People (UoPeople), founded in 2009, is the world’s first tuition-free, non-profit, online academic institution dedicated to opening access to higher education globally for all qualified individuals, despite financial, geographic or societal constraints. A special focus is placed on students from developing countries. Therefore application and examination processing fees vary for applicants depending on their economic background. Tuition, books and materials are free of charge.

UoPeople uses technology that can be accessed globally. Audio and video are excluded in its learning modules to ensure broadband is not a requirement for students to access materials. Collaborative learning and social networking coupled with open-source technology and open educational resource are the cornerstones of UoPeople’s pedagogical model. All UoPeople courses are five credit hours and as like with traditional undergraduate degree students are expected to devote approximately 20 hours per week, per course, for studying, reading lectures, writing exercises and assignments and posting to their online open forums.

UoPeople has signed collaborative partnership agreements with New York University (NYU) to provide students and with Hewlett-Packard, through the Catalyst Initiative, to provide student internship opportunities. UoPeople offers undergraduate programs in Business Administration and Computer Science. They’ve admitted more than 1,500 students from 136 countries to date.

TrainSignal, an Illinois-based training company also jumped on the online learning bandwagon. Scott Skinger, the founder and CEO, said the company was responding in part to the emergence of Udemy. So far, TrainSignal sells certification and skills development courses in DVD format, particularly in information technology, for $499 apiece, but in February TrainSignal opened a subscription service for its 200+ courses, giving access to all of them for for a $49 flat monthly rate. TrainSignal offers a 3-day free trial.

The monthly fee model was pioneered by, which has been around more than 15 years and has over 2,000 courses in its video library. Memberships start at $25/month.

Some might remember the first free Moodle MOOC with WizIQ, led by Nellie Deutsch a Canadian educator. The Moodle MOOC was on my list of MOOCs I was interested in, as I am using the OpenSource LMS Moodle, but lack of time made it impossible. However, another Moodle MOOC,  Teaching with Moodle: An Introduction started September 1.

Launched in 2007 WizIQ grew out of AuthorGEN technologies which was founded 2002. WizIQ Ahas over 200,000 teachers and 3 million learners. is a web service that allows educators and students to meet online in real time for virtual classes. Most courses cost money, but some are free like the Moodle MOOC or the MOOC for English language teachers, but the chance for new additions is high. Also, a class called OER MOOC ran on WizIQ.

While we’re on the subject, educators interested in how to integrate web technologies into full and blended online learning (BOL) using Moodle and WizIQ should check out a network called Integrating Technology for Active Lifelong Learning (IT4ALL), which provides free and low-cost professional development courses. Some of the existing courses include Moodle for Teachers, Moodle for Administrators, Sloodle for Moodle, Academic Writing, APA style, English Grammar, Learn English Online (LEO), WizIQ Live Class, Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL), Integrating Technology into the Classroom and Teaching Online Business.

Modern Lesson is a skill-building platform which features courses for beginners, experts and everyone in between. Unlike the DIY platforms, Modern Lesson allows only a small batch of people to apply to become teachers. Most courses are available free of charge, and some charge a fee. They describe themselves as a skill-building site, not a degree-awarding academic institution. Modern Lesson claims “the people running schools and teaching our children know less about technology and social media than most students.” Their proposed remedy is to help you quickly build your skill set in hours. Certifications are awarded for successful completion of all activities requested by the Modern Lessons instructor, including quizzes, homework, live sessions, forums and videos.

More MOOClatives

10gen education is an online learning platform run by 10gen. 10gen was founded in 2007. It is the software company behind MongoDB that develops and provides commercial support for the open source database MongoDB, the NoSQL database. 10gen, developed training courses with edX source code. Their free courses teach how to develop for and administer MongoDB. Frequent assessments help learners to verify their understanding, and at the end of a course successful participants will receive a certificate of completion from 10gen. 10gen plans to add classes on on schema design, advanced scaling and replication and other topics.

In the spirit of OpenCourseWare and the Khan Academy, OpenSecurityTraining is dedicated to sharing training material for computer security classes, on any topic, that are at least one day long. All material is licensed with an open license like CreativeCommons, allowing anyone to use the material however they see fit, so long as they share modified works back to the community. Beginner, intermediate and advanced classes are available with topics like Android Forensics & Security Testing and Reverse Engineering Malware. Course duration is about 2 to 3 days. Mainly presentations and PDF documents are used as course material.

Pedagogy First is a Program for Online Teaching Certificate Class run by Lisa Lane and her colleagues at Miracosta College. The course is primarily planned for college instructors new to teaching in the online environment, but K-12 teachers, independent learners, educational administrators, e-business owners, technology trainers, educational technologists and others are also welcome. Participants are expected to have familiarity with email, web search and social networking.

Pedagogy First doesn’t consider itself a MOOC. They state: “We are an open, online class with a set curriculum and tasks to complete on your blog each week. Open discussion generates from those activities.” A new class will begin in September 2013. The class is free, offered by the Program for Online Teaching (not an accredited institution), run by volunteer faculty and participants and open to everyone. There is no tuition — only a fee of about $30 for the textbook, but certificate participants are expected to “pay it forward” by mentoring future students.

World Education University (WEU) is a free online university that aims to become a comprehensive, degree-granting institution offering access to college diplomas millions of under-served students around the globe. Offerings will include courses in Business Administration, Engineering, Science, Psychology, Fine Arts, Education, Legal Studies and Health Care. WEU will use an asynchronous, self-paced format. Their proprietary PinPoint Adaptive Learning System (PALS) will adjust content and presentation based on the needs of the learner.

“The great enabler today in higher education is online learning, which vastly expands access to our partner institutions,” says Randy Best, founder and chairman of Academic Partnerships, which serves almost 40 state institutions in the U.S. Recently Academic Partnerships launched the MOOC2Degree initiative whereby some of its university partners provide free, open online courses that lead to academic credit as a first step toward a degree. Existing online courses will be converted into a MOOC, and students who successfully complete a course earn academic credits toward a degree, based upon criteria established by participating universities. Subsequent classes toward the degree won’t necessarily be free or even online, so these free MOOCs are in a sense an introductory offer to promote those university programs.

Online ed resources from Google and YouTube

Google and YouTube are also involved in the MOOC momentum. Power searching with Google was actually my first massive open online course, although I did not really realize at that time that I was taking a MOOC. I pretty much learned by myself and did not join the corresponding forums. But, I greatly improved my search skills, though I considered myself an experienced searcher. I wrote a couple of blog posts about my experience you might be interested to read. A self-paced course about Advanced Power Searching is also available.

Mapping with Google is another online course from Google Education. You might want to check their calendar to learn more about ongoing events.

Creator Academy from YouTube follows a similar path as Google. Creator Academy offers free interactive courses with YouTube experts to get the freshest knowledge and techniques to become a successful YouTube creator.  Questions like “How do I build a cohesive channel strategy, do I optimize my content, create a production strategy or how can I earn money with my videos” are answered during the courses as well as how do I engage with my community. The course teaches you best practices and strategies to help you improve your channel and build bigger audiences.

The end of the journey

As your tourist guide I would like to thank you for traveling with us and I hope you found our MOOC Around the World trip worthwhile and enjoyed it as much as I did.  Please feel free to provide any feedback or information about MOOCs I forgot.

For now I’ll take a break, giving you time to test a couple MOOC platforms and please let me know how you liked them.

But, with the ever growing MOOC landscape I am sure . . .

I’ll be back soon . . . .

Sylvia Moessinger (8 Posts)

I am a vocational teacher for healthcare with a great interest in Education 2.0, i.e. innovative and pedagogically sound application from Web 2.0 technology in teaching and learning. I achieved my Bachelor's in Health (Hons) 2009 and Master's in Online and Distance Education (MAODE) 2011 at the Open University. With my additional studying I wanted to improve my professional knowledge, adjust to the ongoing developments in technology-enhanced learning. After my study I started a part-time job as research assistant at the VCRP to apply my knowledge and learn more about the pedagocial and technical aspects of elearning. I am also a great fan of cMOOCs and particpated in the #OPCO12, MobiMOOC and the #COER13.

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