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This week I’m in Cambridge for a Hewlett Foundation sponsored invited participant workshop on Learning With MOOCs. The timing of the gathering is good, as colleagues at my institution are working hard on developing our DartmouthX open online courses on the edX platform. 

Spending a couple of days immersed in all thing open online learning has caused me to think about the MOOC myths that continue to endure.

Myth #1 - The people involved in open online learning are uncritical promoters of the MOOC phenomenon:   

The reality that I’m seeing at this conference, and at every conference where the educators who are actually involved in open learning are present, is that MOOC practitioners tend to be the biggest MOOC skeptics. The people working on creating MOOC courses are asking the hardest questions about the potential and reality of learning at scale. These are folks that will accept no conclusion without data, and are committed to creating a research and evidence-based culture around open online learning.

Myth #2 - The people involved in MOOCs think that open online education will replace traditional higher education:

The MOOC movement originated and is being evangelized mostly by higher ed insiders. One of the goals for edX reads: "Enhance teaching and learning on campus and online”.  Everyone that I speak with who is involved in creating, teaching, or supporting open online learning is motivated to find ways to leverage MOOCs to improve teaching and learning for our enrolled students.  The MOOC community is committed to improving and evolving, not replacing, our system of higher education.

Myth #3 - The MOOC community and the existing online learning community are different (and maybe at odds with one another):

This criticism of the original xMOOC platform providers (Coursera and edX) is rapidly becoming outdated.  The open online learning movement is quickly evolving into a community of practice.  This community is made up of online learning professionals, educators deeply steeped in learning theory and best online learning practices.

Myth #4 - All MOOCs are the same:

The world of open online learning is like the world of higher ed - best characterized by its diversity and heterogeneity.  MOOCs are as diverse as the higher ed institutions that are creating the courses.  What binds the open online learning community is the challenge of creating free and low-cost learning opportunities at scale.  

Myth #5 - MOOCs are a fad:

MOOCs are one part of the much larger trend towards open online resources and open online learning.  Open online courses will continue even as the platform providers pivot, evolve, or even cease to exist.  Nobody knows what open online education and teaching at scale will look like in 2020, but we are all committed to creating this future together.

Myth #6 - The MOOC movement and the MOOC platforms are synonymous:

The xMOOC world is evolving from one defined by its platforms to one that is defined by its community of practice. This is partly a function of the proliferation of MOOC platforms.  It is also a result of the increasing convergence of the scaled online learning and traditional online learning communities.  

Myth #7 - MOOCs don’t have a revenue model:

Complaining that MOOCs don’t have a revenue model is like saying that campus science and engineering labs don't have a business model. The teams putting together open online courses are evolving into the R&D departments for teaching and learning on campus. Experimentation and risk taking are critical aspects creating a culture of continuous improvement, and even perhaps stepwise improvements, in teaching and learning. The need for the platform providers (edX, Coursera, etc.)  to develop sustainable revenue models should not be confused with the larger discussions about the long-term sustainability of open and scaled learning.

Myth #8 - MOOCs are truly open:

A truly open online course would enable granular content (videos, assessments, images, simulations, etc.) to be disaggregated and ported to other platforms.  Learning objects embedded within MOOCs would searchable and then portable into other learning environments. Free should not be confused with open. 

What MOOC myths would you like to dispel?

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