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MOOC is the acronym for “Massive Open Online Course”. Essentially, MOOC are an online courses designed for large number of participants that can be accessed by anyone anywhere, as long as they have an internet connection, is open to everyone without entry qualifications and offers a full/complete course experience online for free.

The following aspects specifiy the meaning to the elements of MOOC:

  • Massive: MOOC are made for (in theory) an unlimited number of participants. This means that the course is designed such that the efforts of all services does not increase significantly as the number of participants increases.
  • Open: The access to the course is free without any entry qualifications. However, “open” can mean free availability only or that learning materials are not available under an open license. Not all MOOC are open accessible (e.g., due to an age limit or in case of sanctioned countries).
  • Online: The full course is available through the internet. Though, “online” can mean that all learning materials are available online during the course period or that some elements of a MOOC are only available offline (like it will be in the case of AtLAS).
  • Course: The offering is a course, meaning that it offers a complete learning experience (i.e. structured around a set of learning goals in a defined area of study and includes the course materials, quizzes, feedback, examination and certificate of completion). “Course” is sometimes narrowed down to exclude a certificate or even exclude any form of (formative) assessment.

The particularity of MOOC

Consequently MOOC differ from “regular” online courses in at least four aspects:

  • MOOC are designed for an unlimited number of participants and as such require the scalability of the education services.
  • MOOC are accessible at no charge.
  • MOOC requires. no entry qualifications.
  • All elements of course provision are provided fully online.


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  • Friedl, C. et al. (2019). Massive Open Online Courses for Business Learning. Key research, best practices and pathways to innovation. BizMOOC. Open textbook published on PressBooks, Montreal (can also be found at https://mooc-book.eu/index/learn-more/key-areas/about-moocs/)
  • Jansen, D., Schuwer, R., Teixeira, A., & Aydin, H. (2015). Comparing MOOC adoption strategies in Europe: Results from the HOME project survey. International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 16(6), 116-136. ISSN 1492-3831. Retrieved from http://www.irrodl.org/index.php/irrodl/article/view/2154
  • Open Education Handbook (2014). Retrieved from http://booktype.okfn.org/open-education-handbook-2014/what-is-open-education/