The concept of massive open online courses (MOOCs) has been hailed as both a disruptive change in higher education practice and an opportunity to provide the under-served with free access to university level courses. Making post-secondary educational experiences available at scale has been promoted as a opportunity for anyone with Internet access who is motivated to invest time in learning activities delivered in short video segments supplemented with online tutorials and assessed using automated online self-evaluation exercises and summative quizzes and tests. Khan Academy (2014) has popularized the format in K-12 education, while universities such as MIT and Stanford have demonstrated similar approaches for a higher education audience.
Many MOOCs share a common goal of bringing large numbers of learners together (generally 1,000 students or greater) in a common environment for a course delivered as a set of online lessons. However MOOCs are not all presented in the same manner and often differ in terms of their primary strategy for learning design. Some MOOCs use a traditional lecture format that substitutes video lectures for the face-to-face lecture component of a course and provide automated exercises and quizzes along with opportunities to interact among fellow students, and with the course instructors, using discussion boards or chat functions. This style of MOOC is often referred to as an xMOOC, and is characterized by the offerings from MOOC providers such as Coursera and Udacity and their university partners. These MOOCs tend to use custom-designed technical platforms, scheduled learning events, and proprietary learning resources.
Another model of design is referenced as a cMOOC, and these systems use constructivist or connectivist pedagogies (Siemens, 2008) wherein learners are encouraged to build their own knowledge through social learning processes within flexible timeframes, guided by course instructors, and often using open educational resources (OER). It has been argued that the pedagogy of xMOOCs is better suited for learning domain knowledge that can be mastered through repetitive practice, and that cMOOCs may be better suited for allowing learners to acquire higher order creative skills (Bates, 2012b). The cMOOC concept was derived from course experiments led in 2008 by Canadian educational researchers, George Siemens (2008) and Stephen Downes (2006) that generated discussions about the pedagogical theory of connectivism, that proposed learning as a creative and social process of connecting nodes of knowledge.
There are also hybrid design models such as those used by MIT and Harvard that use the edX open source technical platform. edX combines many of the key features of an xMOOC course delivery format and also uses open educational resources (OER). M4D was primarily a hybrid MOOC, similar to edX-based MOOCs.
This report provides a pedagogical review of the Mobiles for Development (M4D) online course that was conducted over six weeks beginning October 2, 2013 by IIT Kanpur and Commonwealth of Learning. It is intended that the review of the M4D course design and delivery experiences will help COL staff to better understand the prototype course, its participants, their performance, and their responses to the course design.