There's a new massive force on the horizon for the mooc landscape as Google and edX combine their existing open platforms to enable anyone who wants to to anyone to create and post courses.
It's really rather surprising that nobody had already taken the domain name MOOC.org, but now that MOOC, standing for Massive Online Open Course has officially been added to the Oxford Online Dictionary, its an acronym that no longer needs explanation.
One of the important aspects of MOOC.org is the emphasis on the "open" part of the definition. It will bring together two existing courseware platforms that are "open" in the sense of being available for use by anybody who wants to do so.
As announced by Dan Clancy on the Google Research blog, Google is contributing its Course Builder, launched as an open source project last September after it has been developed for the first of Google's online courses. Based on App Engine it has now served Google for several courses and has been taken up by others, including Data Mining with Weka a new course that started this week from The University of Waikato, New Zealand, which was included in our latest round up of MOOCs relevant to programmers.
The other part of the partnership is Open edX, the newly created open arm of edX, which also featured in September's list of moocs with a course from Stanford, one of its main contributors.
edX itself was formed in May 2012 as a partnership between MITx and Harvard with the aim of improving teaching and learning on the campuses of both these institutions as well as sharing their expertise with the wider world. Other elite universities have now become platform with this partner and offerings such as MIT's Introduction to Computer Science and Programming and Berkeley's Quantum Mechanics and Quantum Computation have featured in our regular roundup of Computer Science moocs.
In April this year edX announced a collaboration whereby Staford's Class2Go platform, also one that we'd covered in connection with interesting courses, was integrated with the edX platform and broke the news that the source code for its entire online learning platform would be released on June 1, 2013.
According to the Open edX site:
Stanford has contributed functionality back to OpenEdX such as real-time chat, bulk email, new installation scripts, operations tools and integration with external survey tools.
OpenEdX will allow its users to control how their content is used and re-used. Users will be free to release content with licenses that allow re-use in original form, or enable content to be revised, remixed, or redistributed without special permissions.
In this week's announcement from edX marks a major expansion in which Google, as well as contributing to the infrastructure and operating MOOC.org, will collaborate on research into how students learn and how technology can transform learning and teaching on campus and beyond.
MOOC.org is expected to go live in the first half of 2014.
The unification of the platform used to deliver MOOCs is a step in the right direction. It not only provides a communality of UI that students will find helpful it could lead to a platform that is worth coding for. Should we worry that Google is so involved? Possibly but it has partners that will keep an eye on what it is doing.