The pedagogy of the massive open online course: the UK view

This one-year consultancy and report addresses the question of pedagogy within the Massive Open Online Course (MOOC): what kinds of MOOCs we are offering in the UK; what it means to ‘teach’ in the open and at massive scale; and what kinds of demands and expectations are experienced by academics who teach MOOCs. We address these issues specifically as they relate to the UK context. 

The conclusion of the report draws together insights from a literature review and a series of cases to emphasise three key messages and challenges for UK HE:

1) MOOCs are multiple: UK MOOCs have multiple pedagogic forms and intentions, and we can no longer define them as a single ‘transformative’ entity. Broad-brush descriptions of MOOC pedagogy in terms of a cMOOC/xMOOC binary are no longer representative or particularly useful. A more nuanced approach to institutional thinking around MOOCs is now needed: one which takes account of an analysis of MOOC pedagogy at a micro-level of individual course design.

2) pedagogy is not embedded in MOOC platforms, but is negotiated and emergent. Multiple social and material influences converge when MOOC pedagogy is enacted: teacher preferences and beliefs, disciplinary influences, patterns of learner expectation and engagement, and other contextual factors such as institutional teaching culture or the desire to generate analytics. We need to give greater attention to MOOC pedagogy as a sociomaterial and discipline-informed issue.

3) ‘The teacher’ persists in the MOOC. Though MOOC teaching functions are often disaggregated and delegated to automated processes and community-based social learning, the place and visibility of the teacher remain of central importance. MOOC teaching is high-visibility, high-risk and dependent on significant intellectual, emotional and time commitment from academics and the professionals who work alongside them.  

The full report is available here.

Key contact: Sian Bayne

Research team

Sian Bayne | Jen Ross


UK Higher Education Academy