How do you design a MOOC?

About MOOCs

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) have become popular as a result of well-known American universities making their colleges available online, free of charge, to a worldwide audience. While the first MOOCs appeared before 2010, they really became popular in 2012. The design of a MOOC varies, depending on its type.  

The cMOOC is based on the idea of social learning—through the exchange of knowledge, experiences and ideas about the topics covered by the MOOC. The ‘c’ in cMOOC stands for connectivist.  

The xMOOC is based on traditional classroom education where content from experts is offered in written text and/or videos. Small Private Online Courses (SPOCs) originated as variants, with the most important feature being that they are available to a specific target group (private) and are, therefore, smaller.

Customer case:

Rabobank and GITP developed a Massive Online Open Course (MOOC) to help entrepreneurs expand internationally. Read more about how they developed their MOOC

Most important features of MOOCs

  • They offer free access.
  • They are available to a large group of participants.
  • Experts offer the course content—including assignments (xMOOC)—and can provide feedback on the assignments;often, own content = content creation by the experts.
  • Content is selected and made available by the ‘moderator’ (content that is the best starting point for social learning = content curation). The moderator initiates and facilitates the discussion.
  • The content of the MOOC is the starting point of interaction to create social learning between participants.
  • The content is offered through an online platform.
  • Conversations and discussions between participants can take place both on the platform as well as through other channels.
  • Content can be made available all at once, shared periodically (e.g., every week) or based on certain conditions.

MOOCs use the following  aNewSpring features:

  • Social and Mobile Learning
  • MemoTrainer™ as retention tool
  • Conditional learning activities
  • Certificates of participation
  • Hand-in assignments
  • Video hosting
  • Catalogue

Reasons to use a MOOC


Expert education is accessible to large groups of interested parties.

Generating ideas

Some organisations are setting up MOOCs to generate innovative ideas around new solutions or designs.

Content marketing

Today, MOOCs are used as a marketing tool to inform, inspire and support (potential) customers in helping solve the issues they are struggling with.


MOOCs are used to scout for talented professionals. Promising course participants are approached by recruiters for jobs, internships or training programmes.

How do you design a MOOC?

Covering the basics of a MOOC?

  • Why would you like to use a MOOC? (See features above)
  • Who’s your target audience, and what do you want the MOOC to do?
  • Do you go for an xMOOC, cMOOC or SPOC, and why?
  • Which content do you want to offer, what type of content and how much content do you need?
  • What’s the duration of the MOOC/SPOC, and for how long will the participant get access to the content?
  • How do you organise the content?
  • How many chapters or modules do you want to create?
  • Are you going to release all content immediately or not (e.g., release content per week) and why?
  • Do you want participants to hand in assignments? If yes, how do you process these assignments (e.g., no feedback, expert feedback, peer feedback)? _

Making a MOOC awesome:

  • Do you want to enable communication with the experts, moderators and/or fellow students? Do you do this inside and/or outside the platform?
  • Do you have sufficient moderators who support and facilitate social learning (cMOOC).
  • Do you want to provide a course certificate? If so, on what criteria is this based, and (possibly) at what cost?
  • What do you do with additional content provided by participants? Will you share this with other  participants? How will you organise this? What additional activities do you want to organise around your MOOC? Live meet-up with participants? Twitter chat, Hangout, Skype, webinar, Facebook group, LinkedIn group? Who takes the initiative for all this?
  • Are you going to evaluate the MOOC? What do you want to evaluate, and how will you evaluate?

Want to learn more?
Patricia will help you get started:
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Also review these cases: