Much Ado About MOOCs

With Athabasca University’s reputation as the premier online university, it’s surprising that they’re just now joining, or possibly re-joining, the MOOC movement. MOOCs, so-called Massive Open Online Courses, seem to be offered by every university and its frater these days. AU will launch its first purpose-designed MOOC, Learning to Learn Online on March 9.

MOOCs have been around for seven years. The term MOOC came out of a course called Connectivism and Connective Knowledge (CCK08) which was led by George Siemens of University of Manitoba (and more recently of Athabasca University,) and Stephen Downes of the National Research Council in 2008 . In addition to 25 paying students from the University of Manitoba, CCK08 attracted 2200 worldwide participants who joined online for free.

Following successful MOOC offerings from such prestigious institutions as Stanford, Harvard, and MIT, MOOCs’ popularity really took off in 2012. Seemingly overnight, aggregate providers such as Coursera, edX, and Udacity, popped up to provide online learners one-stop MOOC shopping by providing MOOCs from a number of partner institutions. Most courses continue to be offered for free, although increasingly fees are levied for supplementary services such as completion certificates.

I’ve never taken a MOOC. I like the idea of open access to knowledge provided by a creditable source. However, I’m worried that I might use MOOCs as yet another productive procrastination tool?doing something outwardly productive when I really should be doing something else. Additionally, although I like sponging up knowledge, I worry that time constraints may consign me to the 91% of MOOC participants who never complete their courses.

AU will launch its MOOC on March 9. Learning to Learn Online is a five-week course and it’s free for anyone to sign up. AU introduced the LTLO MOOC in November 2014 with a news article and a two-hour information webinar. If you missed the live webinar, you can watch an archived version at

Learning to Learn Online is designed to help participants become better online learners. With self-assessments and exercises, participants can identify their learning styles and trouble spots. Participation level is flexible?individuals can decide for themselves how much they want to participate. Optional completion certificates are available to those who successfully complete all the course quizzes.

I’ve signed up for AU’s LTLO MOOC (I couldn’t resist that string of acronyms.) It’s time to get my MOOC feet wet and Learning to Learn Online seems like an appropriate beginning. Since my university courses are online, it makes sense to ensure that I’m getting as much out of my studies as I can. Online learning is, to me, more challenging than classroom studies and requires a skill-shift. If LTLO can help me develop better learning strategies which lead to better results, it will be worth the time.

The Learning to Learn Online MOOC from AU begins March 9. As of Feb 25, almost 800 participants have signed up and I’m one of them. With a start date only days away, you’d better move quickly if you want to be part of AU’s MOOC premiere.

For more information on AU’s new MOOC, or to enrol, see this recent AU news article or go directly to the course site here.

* CCK08 was arguably the first MOOC, even though it predates the term. For more information on this pioneering course, read this 2013 Times Higher Education article.

Barbara Lehtiniemi is a writer, photographer, and AU student. She lives on a windswept rural road in Eastern Ontario

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