Skip to content

Special Issue: Massive Open Online Courses

Valerie Irvine, Jillianne Code, and I spent time over the past 8 months preparing a special issue of JOLT on massive open online courses. The issue is now available.

From our intro:

Higher education is entering a phase of dramatic change and innovation. Mainstream media often present massive open online courses (MOOCs) as both a reflection of the need for universities to undergo a metamorphosis and as a means of forcing a new perspective on digital teaching and learning practices (i.e., Lewin, 2013; Pappano, 2012). However, university faculty caution that there is not enough research evidence to support widespread adoption. Two significant challenges around the role of MOOCs in higher education are prevalent. First, the discussion on MOOCs to-date has occurred mainly in mainstream media and trade publications. Although some peer-reviewed articles on MOOCs currently exist (e.g., Fini, 2009; Kop, 2011), the amount of available research is generally limited. One of the goals of this special issue is to attempt to address this lack of peer reviewed literature. Second, the vast research available in online and distance education has been largely ignored by mainstream media and MOOC providers. Paying greater attention to what is already known about learning in online and virtual spaces, how the role of educators and learners is transformed in these contexts, and how social networks extend a learning network will enable mainstream MOOC providers and their partners to make evidence-based decisions in favor of educational reform. Thus, a second goal of this special issue is to highlight this research and provide an historical context for online and distance learning not currently evident in the mainstream media treatment of MOOCs.


  1. Esther Jackson wrote:

    It appears that online learning is also increasing as a result of rising technology advancements in demand as a result of time limitations, needs for reducing costs, and competitive educational options. Despite the myths that are out there regarding online learning, organizations and people are giving it a chance and mainstream media is very influential.

    Sunday, September 29, 2013 at 8:15 pm | Permalink
  2. Maria MT wrote:

    Research (and professional interest) on MOOCs is certainly growing and a special issue in the area is of great importance. Especially the need to pay attention to “what is already known about learning in online and virtual spaces” as articulated in the intro of the issue, made me reflect on the imperative of building an educational technology knowledge database. I recently emailed a paper I wrote to a colleague to review, and I was rather intrigued when he suggested I remove references dated prior to 2000 because he feared that I would be criticized on using outdated bibliography. Yet, we want to claim that educational technology is a long established direction. Certainly, technology (and the knowledge/skills for it) advances rapidly, rendering the integration of educational technology perhaps the most unstable aspect in education. Nevertheless, pedagogy behind it (even when it comes to current trends like MOOCs), should draw on a knowledge database, constructed both on evidence from research studies but also – and that’s often overlooked – on well established (and rather stable) theories for teaching and learning. That is, of course, not to imply that historical or contextual reference should not be considered when reviewing theory and practice; adopting unfiltered technology-based initiations/innovations without acknowledging that all studies are culturally sensitive, is likely to be unsuccessful. However, again, archiving knowledge and experience to employ in the future is crucial and I would be very interested in reading/examining how the philosophy and delivery of MOOCs have based on previous knowledge in the design and implementation of online courses.

    Monday, September 30, 2013 at 12:54 am | Permalink