What is a MOOC?

A Massive Open Online Course or MOOC is, according to the Oxford Dictionary:

a course of study made available over the Internet without charge to a very large number of people.”

These online courses, which first came to prominence around 2008/9, evolved out of the Open Education movement. The initial MOOCs were free, collaborative courses which encouraged exploration of resources rather than delivery of set content, and were based on constructivist pedagogy (so known as cMOOCs). Subsequently, as interest in delivering MOOCs grew, instititions and companies began to emerge which specialised in developing and delivering more traditional short online courses, with set content, but still retaining the principles of being open to all and free to study. These are known as xMOOCs.

A range of MOOC providers have emerged including Coursera, EdX in the US, iversity in Europe and NPTEL in India.

The MOOCs offered at Bath are delivered in conjunction with FutureLearn, a private company owned by the UK Open University, which has partnered with Higher Education Institutions, cultural organisations and professional bodies in the UK and internationally.

By Mathieu Plourde [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

How do MOOCs work?

The courses are delivered entirely online, run for between 2 and 10 weeks and have set start and end dates. They don’t usually offer any formal qualifications but can be taken to explore an interest further or to gain/reinforce knowledge in a specific area. And there are usually no entry requirements either, anyone interested, with access to the internet, can sign up.

Developing a MOOC can be time-consuming and can require you to ‘do things differently’, as is true when developing any online course.

Why should I develop a MOOC?

There is no one reason that you might decide to develop a MOOC, but factors may include:

  • promoting a specific research area
  • widening participation
  • increasing recruitment
  • developing a taster for specific course
  • promoting the University internationally
Are there any issues of which I need to be aware?

Before deciding whether you want to develop a MOOC, come and speak to the TEL Team. We can run through with you the steps that need to be considered, the costs involved and the time that it all might take.  If you already have an idea, you can also submit the MOOC ideas proforma.

Some of the key areas to consider include:

  • Learning Design
  • Technology
  • Length and timing of courses
  • Finance
  • Marketing
  • Legal/Copyright
What are the implications for teaching and learning?

If you decide to develop a MOOC, you’ll need to think about this in a different way to how you would normally approach developing a conventional face-to-face or blended unit.  Your course will be available to a global audience and may attract hundreds or even thousands of learners.  We work with FutureLearn to deliver the University’s MOOCs following a social learning model that works well with the structure of the platform.  All resources produced for a MOOC can be reused in different situations, including with on-campus learners, where appropriate.


The FutureLearn platform launched in October 2013 and Bath delivered its first course in January 2014.  As at December 2017, we offer 7 different MOOCs via FutureLearn:


The Departments and Teams involved in developing the current University of Bath MOOCs have participated for many different reasons.  Some have wanted to highlight their particular area of research to a wider audience, others have identified a particular training or support need that their MOOC has addressed.

Lessons Learnt

In developing each of the MOOCs, we have learnt many lessons that we are able to feed back into the day-to-day business of the University, and have acquired new skills that are also transferrable.

Use of video in the MOOCs has had a particular impact, with many colleagues now much more comfortable recording and using video for short updates and quick explanations of issues to support their face-to-face delivery too.  And we quickly learnt to keep videos short and concise – a 15 minute video does not hold the attention of the listener, however dynamic and exciting the presenter.



To date we have reached over 100,000 learners worldwide, from over 160 different countries.

User-Submitted Examples on this Website
Social Networks and Social Learning: a study of two MOOC communities
CLT Admin
The University has successfully run two Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs); one on ‘Inside Cancer’ and one on ‘Sustainability for
Read more.
Who can I speak to @Bath?

There is lots of help and advice available to you from across a range of Professional Service departments at the University.

This includes, but is not limited to:

Some departments and Faculties also have an active academic community which support and promote the use of Technology Enhanced Learning. We recommend that you talk to your Director of Teaching and Learning and your Faculty Learning Technologist who will be able to put you in touch with another academic who can share their own experiences and offer pedagogical advice.


Step Two: Ask the Community
Step Three: Raise a Support Request
Suggested Reading
Teaching as a Design ScienceTypes of LearningPaper from Diana Laurillard
Moving through MOOCs: Pedagogy, Learning Design and Patterns of EngagementMOOC pedagogyConference paper
Engaged learning in MOOCs: a study using the UK Engagement SurveyMOOC learningConference paper
Moving through MOOCs: pedagogy, learning design and patterns of engagementMOOC designConference paper
How would MOOC development help with my application for Fellowship of the HEA?