Profiling the characteristics of MOOC platforms

Kam Cheong Li, Billy T M Wong, Esther W S Chok and Terry Lee
The Open University of Hong Kong

Hong Kong SAR, China

This paper presents an overview of the latest developments in massive open online courses (MOOC) platforms. It profiles a broad range of representative MOOC platforms covering the major players, as well as the newly established ones, across different continental regions. The profile includes a total of 23 representative ones selected from 60 platforms, with their characteristics identified and categorized. The paper highlights the uniformities and diversities of MOOC provision, based on a number of dimensions such as licensing, support for a mobile environment, course languages and accreditation. It reveals how various platforms exhibit different features to position themselves for specific groups of target users.

The major findings of this profiling include: (1) there is no clear relationship among the numbers of partners, courses and students; (2) almost all platforms only provide courses at the tertiary level; (3) open licence is not commonly used for course materials; (4) mobile access is well supported by around one-third of the platforms; (5) different platforms vary in their preferences for course languages; and (6) four platforms support course provision by users.

Based on these findings, the discussion focuses on: (1) different forms of collaboration between MOOC platforms and institution partners, which show a complementary, rather than competitive, relationship with each other; (2) the need to re-examine the interpretation of MOOC completion rate, in relation to the massive student base; (3) the limited openness of course materials; and (4) the high requirements for network infrastructure and users' digital literacy for studying MOOCs, which may constrain their penetration.