MOOC: a revolution in teaching? A European view

Yves Epelboin


Since the end of the 90’s and the emergence of widely disseminated technologies, Information Technology has been claimed as a strong means to revolutionize the old way of teaching and learning. American universities have focused on new technologies and their use for education since their appearance in the late 90s. With the explosion of the Web technologies, the dream of a full distance education has started to be a reality. The intention of the universities was twofold: to attract new customers far from their traditional recruitment pools and to compete not only with other universities, but also with private companies, such as Phoenix U., which organized classical distance learning with great success. The creation of WGU, a pure online university (WGU 1995) is the best example of this intention. Later, the MIT created the Open Courseware initiative (OCW 2002) which exposes an increasing number of teaching documents to the world. In 2006, the Khan academy (Khan 2006), not especially intended towards Higher Education, invited everyone to add their own short video (less than 10 minutes in most cases) to explain any point of interest. The contributors are all volunteers. Neither their qualifications nor their legitimacy are controlled.
More recently, a new concept, MOOC (Massive Open Online Courses) presented a more ambitious goal. Its aim was to provide a comprehensive education to any public, at world scale, and to deliver an attestation (certification) of completion of study to those who had followed successfully the full course. However one must define what the word “successfully” means. The concept of distance learning is quite old. It has been evolving with the technology and the economic conditions. Are the MOOC a breakthrought in education or a new avatar of an old concept? An excellent review about this issue has been made by Hill (2012).
MOOC promoters distinguish two kinds of MOOC (Tracey 2013): xMOOC which is the extension and adaptation of the classical way of knowledge transmission, adapted to a massive number of apprentices and the connectivist MOOC,c-MOOC, which expects a more active learner. The student is supposed to discuss, to debate and to share his/her knowledge with his fellow learners. He is also encouraged to discover teaching materials in the immensity of the web.
Before further discussing the MOOC, it is necessary to explain what kind of pedagogy is characteristic of the socio-economic context of the American universities, to understand to which problem this new concept is supposed to answer.


Teaching; MOOC; e-learning.

Full Text:



Educause (2012) General references about MOOC,

Educause (2012) What Campus Leaders Needs to Know about MOOCs,

Epelboin Y. & Desnos JF (2002) Does the American Approach to Information Technology apply to Europe? The cultural paradigm?, Educause Congress 2002

Fischer K. (2011) Crisis of confidence threatens Colleges, Chronicle of Higher Education May 15, 2011

Hill, P. (2012) Online Educational Delivery Models: A Descriptive View, Educause Review November/December 2012,

Innovatice (2012) Le cours magistral a-t-il un avenir ? (A future for the course from the chair?), colloqium on Innovation in Teaching (in French)

iTyPa (2012) a c-MOOC experience in France,

Katz R. (2012) Edu@2025 Video,

Khan, S. (2006) Khan Academy

Lewin T. (2013) Public Universities to Offer Free Online Classes for Credit, New York Times January 23,

Mc Carthy K. & Abrams N. (2012) America's Student Debt Crisis , Huffington Post May 14,

Mc Ghee P. (2012) Why online courses can never totally replace the campus experience, The Guardian, 19-11-2012,

OCW (2002) MIT OpenCourseware Initiative

Tracey, R. (2013) The moot points of MOOC in e-Learning Provocateur,

WGU (1995) Western Governors University

DOI: 10.7250/eunis.2013.003


  • There are currently no refbacks.

EUNIS 2013


ISBN  978-9934-10-433-6 - online