Is it a MOOC or just eLearning?

• 4 min read

Massively Open Online Courses (MOOCs) without a doubt are one of the hottest topics within the eLearning world. Having recently wrapped up moderating an online panel discussion on MOOCs I felt it would be a great opportunity to jump in with a blog post that includes my personal opinions on where the MOOC concept stands and possibilities for the future.

To begin I would like to offer a heartfelt thanks to our Panelists: Aaron Silvers of MakingBetter™, Erica Leblanc with Thomson Reuters, John Leh of Talented Learning, and Michael Orey with the University of Georgia,  for providing an articulate and very informative discussion about a wide range of MOOC topics.

There were a few topics that while covered in the webinar I feel still may cause some confusion and disagreement in the larger community. There is a lot of mixed branding in our industry about what constitutes a MOOC and about MOOC offerings within corporate America and I wanted to take some time to provide my opinion. Many industry pundits are using the term MOOC almost synonymously these days with any elearning course that they are offering. I feel that this should be reevaluated.

The functional definition of MOOCs are Massively Open (large enrollments and free) Online Courses (web based curricula) and I feel that everyone can easily accept this definition as it is exactly what MOOC stands for. My concern is that we see many groups trying to apply the “hot label” of MOOC to their traditional eLearning and while I understand the marketing value of doing this I feel that it may be done under false pretenses.  The “working definition” of a MOOC is very narrow and very specific and in my honest opinion not a very great fit for most corporate practices as it is very difficult to monetize the free nature of MOOCs. Most of our panelists touched on this point as well.

If you’d like to view the panel discussion on MOOCs from Academia to Corporate click here

Now many of you will probably debate my definition of MOOCs saying that they have evolved beyond the original definition and now have taken on a life of their own naturally evolving according to market influence. I would also agree with this point of view maintaining that definitions are important as long as the wide body of users of the definition maintain a shared meaning.  The only exception I will take is that many groups are using traditional eLearning courses and promoting them as MOOCs. To these I will say all MOOCs are eLearning but not all eLearning are a MOOC!

Definitional philosophy aside, if we widen the scope a bit on what a MOOC is, there really are some interesting points on how to utilize a MOOC framework within corporate America both from implementing existing MOOC curricula as a model of professional development or building one for internal and external stakeholders within your existing infrastructure.

We see many corporate groups offering Massively Online Courses (MOC) at a cost and doing it very successfully in a B2B/B2C (Business to Business/Business to Consumer) model that really works.  The main difference between these and the traditional MOOC model is these are usually for targeted skills and typically aren’t constrained by a defined time model (and usually cost money). They also don’t have the level of discussion-based engagement that most of the traditional MOOCs offer (connectivest design model). While these don’t fit a traditional definition of a MOOC they none the less have a Massive reach, are offering Online Courses and are market influencers in their industry (think Skillsoft,, or Cegos). While they don’t fit the traditional definition of a MOOC as all are offering courseware for a fee to be used according to your needs, they come close (especially in the Massive department). Most importantly these courses are professionally designed with Instructional Designers, Developers, and Subject Matter Experts all contributing to the product, where many MOOC courses are just videos of a Professor pontificating on their subjects (though the above mentioned lack in the social components). You also have Udemy which bills itself more of a learning meetup platform allowing experts to build courses to offer either for free or a fee to students interested in their topics. The question then arises are these MOOCs or just examples of eLearning.

As business ideas go these are all very successful. Implementing a MOOC concept within your organization however will require some thought as the biggest question really should be: do I want to build a MOOC or just offer some really good eLearning to my team? There is a difference!

For those of you who want to get some practical tips and understand more of the functionalities of how to build MOOCs – or just really good eLearning – we are going to be holding another MOOC webinar in the first part of Quarter 1 2015. During this webcast we will have our experts discussing some practical applications of corporate MOOCs as well as some tips on how to build one and some best practices in building out really good eLearning. In addition we will have a Q&A session at the end in which we will engage directly with our audience on some best practices in building engaging eLearning to promote as a MOOC or leaving it alone and promoting it as engaging eLearning.

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Author: Josh Squires

Josh SquiresJosh Squires is currently serving as the Chief Operating Officer of Docebo EMEA.  Josh has spent the past 15 years researching and implementing creative learning solutions within corporate and higher education environments. With clients ranging from Motorola to Disney, he has been on the designing and implementing stage of a wide range of learning scenarios with customers spanning the globe. Josh has also taught Instructional Technology theory and tools as a consultant and faculty member for over 8 years in both Corporate and Higher Education environments.

You can contact him directly at or connect with him via LinkedIn