Does your MOOC have penguins?

It turns out that there are no less than three MOOCs on open education coming your way. George and Stephen are running one now, David Wiley's one ran last winter and will run again this winter. And very last, I'm running one next March. My one really arose through logic and not a desire to ape George or David (although I do that often enough). I was writing a block of the new Masters level course on Innovation in education, and my block was on open education. I have a strong 'learning by doing' approach, so it made sense for the students on this block to experience it as an open course. So, the course itself is 22 weeks long, and mine is the second block, so for my bit students come out of the protected OU environment and into an open one, and it runs as a mini, self-contained course (in the OpenLearn platform).

After David's blog post the other day, I was joking with him and George on Twitter about competition between the open education MOOCs. In an effort to entice learners I promised that mine will have dancing penguins, booze and fireworks. Through her marvellous drawing skills, Giulia Forsythe visualised this for all of us:

Openness in Education

Okay, I may have slightly oversold it there.

Firstly, I don't think the open ed MOOCs should be territorial or alpha male about the whole thing – we'll each bring different takes on it, and learners will prefer one style to another. It might be a good exercise in all three courses to get learners to compare the three in terms of pedagogy, content, technology.

Secondly, we should turn Giulia's penguin into a badge. Only the penguin badged MOOCs offer something different, either in terms or approach, coverage or activities. As I've mentioned before, the interesting thing about the early MOOCs, was the ability to experiment. This is what is lost in the new wave of industrial, commercial MOOCs. So to differentiate them, the experimental MOOCs can state what is innovative about theirs. So I'd claim that the penguin elements in mine are:

  • Postgrad level
  • Activity based, light collaboration model
  • Hybrid approach to fee-paying and open students
  • Combination of formal university systems and third party services

(I'd like to add badging to this, but there are some internal discussions going on around this, so we'll see).

So, what is the penguin in your MOOC?


  1. Hi Martin (and others)
    The fact that there are now more MOOCs running at one time than you can shake a penguin at (and I’m just thinking of the *original* cMOOCs here) is a healthy development. We are beginning to see variations on the theme, each suiting the particularities of specific contexts and individual preferences. It’s nice to have more than one club to visit, or frequent. There’s even one up the road from me that features penguins ( So there.

  2. I guess the competition aspect of MOOCs is all about the “size” thing isn’t it? So it’s based on the false assumptions that there is a discrete and limited market for Open Education MOOCs, and that it is not possible for more than one to exist.
    Chaps, MOOC starts with an “O”. Not an “M”. 🙂

  3. As far as the recent development is concerned and Martin has referred to that, I am afraid that we will have the penguin “Open” for the original MOOC concept and a penguin massive or “revolutionary” for the market MOOCs.

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