MOOC – Is open technology opening education?

If you follow education or technology news, you might have heard the acronym MOOC bandied about recently. There are already a huge amount of blogs and discussions on MOOCs, but this article aims to summarise Massive Open Online Courses for eWorks’ clients and followers by looking at each term in the acronym and the meanings behind them.


This term emerged in other internet-related acronyms, particularly in the gaming community where MMO or MMOG represents Massively Multiplayer Online Games. These games are played via the Internet and can involve 4000+ players simultaneously, often with vast virtual game worlds.

Unlike the space limitations in a physical classroom or auditorium, MOOCs are typically designed in such a way that there are no limits to how many people can participate. An example is Udacity’s CS101 course having 314,159 students enrolled in May 2013.


This term might look fairly innocuous when viewed as publicly open to registrations, however when we look at what open means in a broader sense, the impacts are huge. With the ability to create learning environments that can scale to hundreds of thousands of people, should/could/would there be a charge for entry? This boils down to the age-old question of free education, a global discussion which has been re-fuelled by the emergence of MOOCs.

An example of the power and scale of open learning is Kahn Academy, which started in late 2003 when Salman Khan began tutoring his cousin in mathematics using Yahoo’s Doodle Notepad. He opened an account on YouTube in 2006 and since has delivered 300 million video lessons in a range of topics spanning from history to computer science. There is no charge for access to Khan Academy, however 1.4 million dollars of funding has been provided by the Gates Foundation.


The audience for Khan Academy and other MOOCs such as the ones launched by Harvard and Stanford? Everyone that has access to the Internet. This is a rapidly growing number according to the Wikipedia estimation that shows internet access penetration still only covers 39% of the global population in 2014. MOOCs are a great source of education for developed countries, but those learners in developing countries miss out on the opportunity, and you could perhaps argue that free education is needed the most in developing nations.

For those of us that have access to the Internet, online self-paced learning offers the opportunity to work and study at the same time; a choice that in the past may have meant one or the other.

Growth in the use of online digital technology is changing the way we communicate with others. This is shown in the large amounts of people using social media services like the 1.3 billion users on Facebook, sharing photos and conversations often immediately via their smartphone.


With the growth in online learning, it stands to reason that the traditional associations of the term course will change with it. Often, the term is associated with going to a physical place with a number of other learners and a teacher. When attending a MOOC, this activity transforms into an online interaction in a virtual space. My recent experience attending the Coaching Digital Learning course from has involved reading articles, watching videos, writing assignments and having Twitter conversations with other participants following the conference hashtag. This seems to me to be a good balance between the two emerging MOOC models:

  • connectivist MOOCs that focus on enabling a large-scale dialog via social media, and
  • constructivist MOOCs that provide a collection of learning resources for an individual to progress through at their own pace.

Even though MOOCs have received some bad press primarily due to low completion rates, they appear to be here to stay as a large-scale method of delivering education.

Find out how to start or improve your e-learning by contacting Darcy Nicolson, our E-learning Consultant and representative of the National VET E-learning Strategy.

Pearson vocational titles transfer to Cengage Learning

Cengage Learning is taking over future editions of the vocational education textbooks, previously published by Pearson.

Vocational & Professional Group, CENGAGE Learning

Cengage Learning continues to invest in vocational education.

  • Karen Kearns’ new editions now available from Cengage Learning Australia
  • Pearson Education future editions will be published by Cengage Learning Australia

What’s available now?

Front covers are Karen Kearns' 'Birth to Big School' and 'The Big Picture'

The brand new third editions of Karen Kearns’ Birth to Big School and The Big Picture, covering Certificate III in Early Childhood Education and Care, are available now!

The new Diploma series will be available mid-2014.

For approved desk copies, samples or orders, contact Cengage.

Your desk copy requests and orders previously placed with Pearson are being transferred to Cengage and will be fulfilled shortly.

What about other books?

If you are using a current edition of a Pearson vocational textbook, please continue to order through Pearson Australia. It’s business as usual!

What’s in the future?

Future new editions of vocational textbooks will be published and distributed through Cengage Learning! So now you can plan ahead! Cengage have already begun reviewing these wonderful textbooks and making plans for new editions.

Let Cengage help you

This acquisition provides a certainty for the TAFE and RTO market with the knowledge that bestselling favourite textbooks will continue to be published. As the number one publisher of vocational education texts in the country, Cengage continues to invest in vocational publishing and is dedicated to working with you.

E-champions in adult and community education

The National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER) has created the Community of Practice scholarship program to encourage a culture of research in vocational education and training (VET) organisations. With the guidance of an experienced mentor, VET practitioners without any formal research experience undertake research to address a workplace problem.

Sarah Phillips, an e-learning consultant and content services advisor at eWorks, participated in the 2010 Community of Practice program. Her researched looked at practitioners in the adult and community education (ACE) sector who champion electronic learning in a training environment. Her aim was to identify how ACE organisations can provide a workplace environment that encourages the development of such practitioners.

The study was built on the current body of research relating to the professional development of VET practitioners, and the identified skills and knowledge of e-champions. The paper specifically focuses on the adult and community education (ACE) sector in Victoria. The research draws on individual and focus group interviews conducted in a virtual classroom. The interviews were an attempt to help to identify the barriers, enablers and drivers facilitating VET practitioners’ engagement in self-directed professional development, both within their allocated employment time and personal time. The paper attempts to identify how ACE organisations might provide a workplace environment that encourages the development of e-champions capable of leading in the area.

Download the published paper (Word 263KB)

Victoria seeks input on ICT strategy

The Victorian Coalition Government is seeking feedback on a proposed ICT strategy developed by the Victorian Information and Communications Advisory Committee (VICTAC).

The draft provides advice on the future management and use of ICT by government and how the Victorian Government can design and use information and technology to deliver better services.

Assistant Treasurer and Minister for Technology Gordon Rich Phillips said that the Victorian Government is in a strong position to make the most of a changing ICT landscape. “We want to use information and technology to benefit Victoria,” Mr Rich-Phillips said. “Online services and new technologies continue to transform the way we shop, bank and live. Government must take advantage of these capabilities to remain in touch with the industry, to connect with our communities and to drive down the cost of government services.”

For further information and to view the draft strategy, visit There, you can also leave comments or submit a more substantive proposal. Consultation will close on 17 October 2012.