Quality assurance in MOOCs

The open and distance learning sector helped millions of people obtain degrees well before the advent of MOOCs. This sector has built well-established practices for quality assurance, accreditation, student authentication and management. With suitable adaptations, the emerging MOOC paradigm can take advantage of this experience and these practices. FutureLearn is an exemplar in this regard.

As might be expected from universities and enterprise partners, MOOCs are designed using frameworks for curriculum development similar to those within mainstream academic operations. Learning outcomes and assessments are fundamental components of instructional design, as are the activities and instructional resources that bring life to a learning experience.

Similarly, MOOCs are subject to institutional quality review processes, and the leading xMOOC platform providers have also established quality assurance protocols for their partners. cMOOCs have typically arisen from within institutions and are generally subject to internal review processes. In some cases, cMOOC initiatives are experimental and are used to test and evaluate new instructional design and delivery processes, often incorporating social media and distributed discussions, or even the co-creation of curriculum and content through contributions from participants.

Learners themselves are becoming proactive in exchanging information about the quality of student experiences in MOOCs, through personal accounts of their practices within MOOCs. These narratives are increasingly appearing in blogs and social media outlets, often during the course of MOOC delivery and sometimes inviting additional participation in what is perceived to be a good experience in the moment.

Because of the reach and immediacy of social media, the reverse scenario can also come into play, wherein negative reactions to MOOCs in progress or issues arising from them quickly become widely known, sometimes forcing MOOC providers to halt or quickly revise the offering.


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A Policy Brief on MOOCs by Commonwealth of Learning is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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