As can be seen, it is often pointed out that [size] is a necessary characteristic, but I’ve been experimenting with what I call Miniscule Open Online Courses, which is where I think that the principles on which MOOCs are based apply to courses run on a much smaller scale e.g. http://goodbyegutenberg.pbworks.com. – VANCE STEVENS
Adding to this point, I would be content simply calling a MOOC an OOC.
It’s difficult enough interpreting the concept of openness given the different opinions on the most appropriate Creative Commons license to use for example, namely whether content should be under a commercial or noncommercial license. For some, openness is all or nothing, for others it’s a matter of degree.
The notion of online delivery is another issue for (especially) those new to this type of learning environment. Which technologies should be used? How to engage yet not feel overwhelmed?
The idea of a “course” then leads to issues of start and end dates, identifying explicit or implicit desired results (intentional/unintentional learning), implementing different types and the distribution of assessment, taking the course for credit or no credit, etc.
Notions of openness, delivery, and course attributes are more important than how many participants there are in an OOC – subscribing to the notion that says, “more is better”. One might argue that having large amounts of participants will lead to continued discourse or peer-to-peer learning after the MOOC has completed; that learners will be more engaged if a MOOC has large numbers. But it has more to do with the type of communication that flows between each learner and their neighboring nodes (i.e., those individuals or communities that remain within one degree of separation and any artifacts the learner has direct contact with) than it does simply knowing how many neighboring nodes (NNs) exist in the first place. And who’s to say it’s better if those NNs are exclusively MOOC participants? And even if all NNs are exclusively MOOC participants, what’s the ratio of NNs/MOOC participants, and does that even matter. A more engaging and effective learning experience is possible if we focus on what it means for this type of learning environment to be open, online, and how it’s presented as a course.
I believe it’s quite possible to have an engaging and effective learning experience when five OOC participants have 30 NNs that include the other four OOC participants and 26 individuals or communities that have nothing to do with the OOC itself. It’s also possible that these same five OOC participants can have a fruitful learning experience being part of a 1000 other OOC participants but still choose to interact with the same NNs; that is, to remain on the peripheral of the (“M”)OOC. If we must stick to the acronym, I’d leave it as a Meaningful (and relevant), Open, Online, Course. Then have a discussion around what is meaningful and relevant around particular educational contexts.
What any OOC needs is sustainability – at least between the start and end dates, otherwise there is no course. Creating a discourse around openness, delivery, and the course in terms of curriculum, assessment, and instruction (in terms of meaningful and relevant learning given particular educational contexts) will go much further in bringing about OOC sustainability than talking how many numbers lead to “massiveness”.