Lately  when I write about MOOCs (and I admit, I do write about MOOCs a lot  lately), I feel the need to attach a bunch of adjectives to clarify what I mean by the term: the Stanford-model MOOC . New MOOCs. The OG MOOC . The ur-MOOC. The MOOCs-come-lately . VC MOOCs . Tech MOOCs . Mother of all MOOCs . Change11 . DS106 . MOOCGuffin  (I just totally made that up. Sorry.).
Regardless, it’s clear to me that there’s a failure of acronyms here -- too bad since acronyms are supposed to serve as an obvious shorthand, spelling out the initials of exactly what we mean. As in: MOOC. Massive Online Open Course. It’s clear what we mean by the term. Except it isn’t.
- “Massive” How do we define “massive”? How big? How many students? How much participation? Do we rate everything in terms of the Stanford AI class now? In other words: less than 100K isn’t “massive,” it’s just “really big.” How does this relate to class size on campus? See: Virginia Tech geography professor John Boyer’s massive (offline) World Regions class .
- "Online”: This is self-explanatory, right? This is what distinguishes a MOOC from the example above. But even here I wonder if we need a subscript or something to indicate that there are also offline versions – whether they’re the official, for-credit courses on campus (See: DS106) or they’re informal study groups.
- “Open”: This is the worm-hole of meaning. Open enrollment? Openly licensed content? An open-source tech platform? Open-ended classes? Open transparency on the university (or startup) offering it about their mission and their trajectory?
- “Course”: C is for cookie. C is for course. C also stands for connection, connectivism, community, credit, and/or certificate. Take your pick. But whichever you choose as the C in MOOC shapes greatly the MOOC itself, I’d argue.
Doug Holton  has suggested other acronyms: MOOLE, for example. A massively open online learning environment. He points to MMORPG too (that is: massively multiplayer online role playing game) as an alternative to how we frame the MOOC.
All this is helpful for my thinking about MOOCs as a “thing” == a phenomenon and/or an instructional and/or connectivist model. But it does little to help me as a writer and user of acronyms. I still need to do a better job distinguishing connectivist MOOCs from the Stanford model without each blog post going into details about what I mean by that. I suppose that’s what footnotes and links are for – where history and references are given. I don’t know.
As for me, from here on out, maybe I’ll just use the domain MOOC.ca  to refer to MOOC’s connectivist origins – a top-level-domain homage to the Canadians involved . (Which means, yes, Stephen Downes. You do need to update that site .)
But there must be other acronyms and better word choices. Chime in, please.