MOOC explained under the scope of distant education development

MOOC is not an independent educational phenomenon that grew out of vacuity, but a modern evolution of distant education. MOOCs are a continuation of the trend in innovation, experimentation and the use of technology initiated by distance and online learning, to provide learning opportunities for large numbers of learners (Daradoumis, Bassi, Xhafa, & Caballé, 2013). Dating back to year 1728 (Table 1), the distant education started to train people beyond geographical reach. Four development phases were identified:

  • (1) Before 1960s: early age of distant education.
  • (2) 1960s – 1970s: computer-assisted distant education.
  • (3) 1980s – Early 2000s: Web-based distant education, and
  • (4) 2000s – Present: Open & Social distant education.

The development of internet and personal computer has brought the distant education to every possible person with the support of various hardware and software. In 1998, the open source movement picked up the speed of generating open access content on the internet for the public. The Creative Commons license, proposed in 2001, became the worldwide accepted standard for open content licensing. The idea of openness was firstly applied to computer science filed and then spreading to other areas of the society, including the education. From the late 1990s MIT had experimented with putting materials associated with its credit courses on the web for free (Daniel, 2012). The year of 2002 turned out to be a milestone for such efforts with the emergence of OpenCourseWare (OCW) initiative and Open Educational Resource (OER). In 2008, when Dave Cormier and Bryan Alexander participated in Connectivism and Connective Knowledge, they proposed the term of MOOC to describe this exciting new pedagogy and education format online. Since then, MOOC has been the key term in distant education as its modern development. Along with the social media development and involvement, MOOC is rapidly gaining its reputation over the public. Since then, MOOC has been the key term in distant education as its modern development.

Table 1. Intertwined development of distant education and technologies

Year Event

Before 1960s: Early age of distant education

1728 First recorded distance learning occurred in Boston, USA
1840s First modern distance education via mail by Sir Isaac Pitman
1874 Institutionally sponsored distance education began
1892 The term of distance education was first used
1920s First teaching machine was developed by Sidney Pressey
1937 First electronic digital computer was built
1948 First program to run on a computer
1951 First computer for commercial use was introduced
1953-1956 B. F. Skinner develops “programmed instruction”
1957 The beginning of machine learning

1960s – 1970s: Computer-assisted distant education

1960s CBT (computer based training), for example: PLATO (Programmed Logic for Automatic Teaching Operations) is a CBT network
1966 CAI (computer assisted instruction) in schools
1969 The Open University was founded
1970 Computer mouse and GUI (graphical user interface) were invented
1975 First personal computer Altair 880 was invented
1960s-1970s Early experiment with internet

1980s – Early 2000s: Web-based distant education

1989 WWW or web was invented.
1990 Commercial internet service emerged; First digital native born; First web browser was developed
1993 First fully virtual university, Jones International University
1998 Open Source movement started
1999 eLearning as a term used for the first time
2000 Business started adopting eLearning

2000s – Present: Open & Social distant education

2001 Wikipedia created; Creative commons license
2002 MIT’s OCW initiative; OER
2004 Facebook founded
2005 YouTube founded
2006 iTunes U, Khan Academy and Twitter started
2008 First MOOC was born
2012 Year of MOOC: edX, Coursera, Udacity founded
2013 First for-credit MOOC by Udacity and San Jose State University
2014 MOOC number: 400+ universities, 2400+ courses, 16-18 million students
2015 Global Freshman Academy by edX and Arizona State University
2016 MicroMasters by edX with universities

2 thoughts on “MOOC explained under the scope of distant education development

  1. A brief note on the history of distance education would be: what about the sofists? They walked from place to place to educate people. The teacher (educational ressources) coming to the students (and not the students coming to the site of education) would be the very core for distance education.

    1. Ha, Ove, you have a very good point there. However, it still requires one party of the education participants to physically move. The distance education will be for both the providers and consumers not to directly meet but make the teaching and learning happen. That is my opinion.

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