“MOOC: Preliminary Results” an event @ eMadrid


Last Friday attended to a very interesting event titled as “Cursos Masivos MOOC: primeros resultados” (MOOCs: Preliminary Results) organized by eMadrid at the Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia (UNED). Three experts participated in this event Pedro María Marauri (UIED-UNED), Raquel Fernández (CSEV) y Marta Cáceres (CSEV) and Michael Totschnig (Independent e-Learning Consultant, Germany). You can find more information about the event in this Program. However, since it was mainly in Spanish, here I will summarize the most relevant aspects of the three talks.

Funciones de un facilitador en un Curso Online Masivo y Abierto (MOOC) (Functions of a facilitater in MOOC), Pedro María Marauri (IUED-UNED).

Pedro María provided us a nice practical and functional perspective about which are the people involved in a MOOC and which their roles are.

Marauri classifies the people involved in a MOOC production into two big groups that intervene along the three states of a MOOC (Pruebas/Desarrollo/Producción):


  • Teachers: in charge of preparing an designing the course material
  • Curators: in charge of assuring the quality of the course content, paying attention at the coherence and the materials.
  • Facilitators: in charge of supporting the course in “production” time.


  • Platform administrators: in charge managing the platform in which the course will be enacted.
  • Designers of the learning environment: in charge of loading all the materials and activities prepared by the Academics.
  • Editors: in charge of administrating and launching the course.
  •  Technical support: in charge of solving the technical aspects related with the platform.
  • Methodological support: Support about how to address the methodological aspects related with an online environment.

Marauri has been the facilitator of one of the UNED MOOCS, so he focussed his talk on the lessons learned about this role. Here I just summarize some of the aspects that I found most interesting.

This is the list of task that a facilitator should be in charge of:

  • Supporting the students during the course enactment: articulating the conversations in the forums, informing participants about the characteristics of the course, promoting autonomous learning, informing students about the badges and Karmas (gammification mechanism typically present in MOOC platforms.
  •  Informing the coordinators and teachers about how the course evolve: detecting problems, being continuously in contact with the coordinators and other facilitators, reporting incidents to the technical support and promoting participants to answer the final questionnaire about the course or platform.

For making these tasks easier, Marauri highlighted some of the tools that he would recommend to any facilitato. Since users access to MOOCs using different Operative Systems (Windows, Mac, Linux…) and different browsers, he recommends to use the following tools.

  • Virtual machines with the different operative systems in order to understand what the different users are “exactly seeing”: VMWare (for Windows), Parallels (Mac) OpenVZ (Linux), Virtualbox (for any OS).
  • Since users access to the course using different devices he also recommends having a tablet and a mobile device to access the course. In this line, he recommends installing Puffin, a browser for tablets that supports Flash

Colaboración e innovación como claves en el desarrollo de MOOCs  y comunidades de emprendimiento en Iberoamérica. Proyecto unX  y la Comunidad de emprendimiento móvil, Raquel Fernández (CSEV) y Marta Cáceres (CSEV).

In 2011, with the MOOC tsunami, the first question that the people from the CSEV asked themselves was “How do we start?”. They wanted to enter into the MOOC wave for the social and educational needs in Spain. They started identifying the needs of the following Spanish collectives: Universities, IT sector, Students and Society. This convergence was the starting point to address the first courses in UNX to the MOOC world.

UNX: the first community Latin America and Spanish communities for supporting entrepreneurship in Spanish speaking communities. But UNX is not only a MOOC platform it is also a community. This is the added value of this UNIX. Concretely, UNX is divided into two areas:

  • UNIX supports learning offering courses based on videos and activities.
  • UNIX supports the entrepreneurship community offering functionalities for collaborating and sharing between participants. The community is fostered by a Karma system. That is, gamified mechanism in which people earn reputation within the community by solving challenges.

Up to now, UNX have several courses running, with lot of students (from 1000 to 5000).

CSEV is currently researching in different lines for improving the community such as creating new courses modalities based small modules or introducing tutoring sessions. However, one of the main focuses is to start “moving the MOOCS” by improving the platform for better supporting MOOC mobile learning. In this last line, they will launch Weprendo, a mobile entrepreneurship community. Also, they are exploring the potentiality of Vuforia, a platform by Qualcoom for developing apps for augmented reality experiences, for MOOC experiences.

Grados de apertura en Cursos Online Masivos Abiertos (MOOC), Michael Totschnig (Consultor independiente de e-Learning, Alemania).

Totschning organized his talk around the topic of how to address openness in MOOCs from his experience as coordinator for openHPI, a platform for xMOOCs

He started explaining “What means OPEN in a MOOC?” raising some open questions that still remain unexplored:

  • Open Access!!: free of cost and free of pre-conditions.
  • Open Content?: Can the content be reused as Open Educational Resources? This is still an open question. Having a lot of MOOC platforms, could we reuse the content from one platform to another?
  • Open Source?: Is the system open to experimentation?
  • Open Space? Where are the boundaries? We can discuss Openness into different types of boundaries.

Totschning presented a very interesting table proposing which are the boundaries of the learning event in xMOOCs and cMOOCs (see this post).

Temporal Fixed Potentially unlimited
Cultural One dominant voice Polyphonic
Organizational One institution in the centre Network of institutions and individuals
Technical Monolith system Aggregation of tools
Domain Definite and independent Infinite and connected
Knowledge Theoretical Content Situated context, process

After this theoretical vision of xMOOCs and cMOOCs Totschning presented his experience in openHPI. openHPI is institutional platform for MOCs hosted at the Hasso Plattner Institute in POstdam (HPI). The typical courses formats in this platform are:

  • Courses organized into 6 units
  • Units taught during one week
  • Technically, the platform is based on CanvasLMS (OS LMS written in RubyOnRails). It is implemented in a private cloud infrastructure behind LoadBalancer and provides video streaming from Vimeo.
  • openHPI is currently running or has run several courses with lots of students (from around 600 to around 13000 participants).

This experience has been the basis for his last work in which he has presented a set of guidelines for participate communities in MOOC platforms applied to openHPI. This guidelines is based on the Ecologies of participation that Ficher (2011) and can be found in Table 1 of his paper “openHPI – a Case Study on the Emergence of Two Learning Communities”. Se also the paper “openHPI: Evolution  of a MOOC platform from LMS to SOA”.

In this work he also identifies different degrees of participation of the students in a MOOC: Inactive, Passive, Reacting, Actin and Supervising/supporting. This classification shares some similarities with the one proposed by Phill Hill in his post “Emerging students Patterns in MOOCs: A (Revised) Graphical View (http://mfeldstein.com/emerging-student-patterns-in-moocs-a-revised-graphical-view/ )

After each of the presentations, there was an open round of questions. The audience expressed some of the most common questions that still remain open regarding MOOC:

  • What is the business model that makes MOOC a sustainable model for Universities and educational centers? As Marauri indicated in his presentation, there is a lot of people involved in a MOOC production. Then, the question is, how can we maintain the How can you manage and maintain a group like this? Selling materilas related with the MOOCs (initatives in USA).
  • How can MOOCs be introduces as part of higher education courses at the university? How do we manage the acreditation processes?
  • How can we facilitate the production of MOOCs using through technology, opening spaces for sharing contents and re-using resources?

All these questions and much other are now under discussion. Lot of opinions and experiences are emerging from the different initatives around the world. Will MOOCs change traditional education? Will be MOOCs adopted as a credited course that will supply courses at the university? No one have answers for that, but MOOCs have opened up lot of discussions in the network.  An article in the EducauseReview Online, for example, makes a reflection about how the MOOC model is challenging traditional education. The Horizon Report 2031, state that MOOCs are on a near-term horizon that will see a widespread adoption in education in the next few months.

The only think that is true is that all universities around the world are working on the MOOC direction and that some solution will emerge for all these questions. I don’t know what will the impact and how everything will evolve, but what is clear for me is that MOOCs, in one format or another, are here to stay.