McClure, M. W. (in press). Morphing MOOCs: How will new purposes, formats and entrants contribute to HER? Higher Education and its Principal Mission: Preparing Students for Life, Work and Civic Engagement. Proceedings from the 11th International Workshop on Higher Education Reforms (HER). St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador.
Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) have often been reported in the media as 1) new, 2) monolithic and 3) inevitable. The current narrative suggests this technology developed ab nihilo, independently from the histories and larger contexts of technology and education. None of this is true. It is a shibboleth, left over from 2012, when the US media first discovered elite expert MOOCs, and ignored their historical contexts. As a consequence, interpretations of their success and value have been consistently wide of the mark.
This is important for higher education institutions (HEIs) because if the strategic narratives are not well formed, then planning decisions can be difficult. This paper exams two narratives of MOOC development. The first narrative focused on the democratization of content. It basically followed two different traditional models. The first developed around concepts of self-directed, peer cooperation. The other developed around concepts of access to elite expertise. Both approaches have generated benefits, costs and risks to HEIs.
The second narrative of MOOC development focused on the democratization of platforms or delivery systems. It tracked the rapid development of technology in apparently contradictory directions: concentration, decentralization, standardization and personalization. As delivery systems, MOOCs are part of the much larger online education movement rooted in distance education. Institutional planners may have difficulty keeping up with the rapid development of opportunities and threats in both areas.