Comparing the MOOC dot com #h817open

“St. Patrick's Day Party Gone Awry” by eilonwy77. Creative Commons licence CC BY-SA
“St. Patrick’s Day Party Gone Awry” by eilonwy77. Creative Commons licence CC BY-SA

Like OpenLearn’s “Open Education” course, the “Digital Storytelling” course is also “open” in the respect that course content is publicly available and accessible. Whereas the courses on Coursera and Udacity are “closed” and requires the user to sign-up and enrol into a course before they are able to access content. In Coursera’s case, the content is not really available until the course is ready to run. The following table compares and contrasts three entirely different massive open online courses (MOOCs)

Digital Storytelling (DS106) e-Learning & Digital Cultures (Coursera) Applied Cryptography (Udacity)
Lead University University of Mary Washington, USA University of Edinburgh, UK University of Virginia, USA
Course Duration This course takes 15 weeks to complete. The course is repeated three times throughout the year. The course takes 5 weeks to complete. The course usually runs at certain times in the year. The course takes 7 weeks to complete. The course uses rolling enrolment, meaning the student can start anytime they want.
Course Workload There are no suggested study / workload times. Possibly running way into excess of 12 hours or more / week. Estimated 5-7 hours / week are suggested. There are no suggested study / workload times.
Available Tutors 2 course tutors manage this course. 5 course tutors manage this course. 2 course tutors manage this course.
Technology WordPress website
Google+ Hangout
RSS Feeds / Aggregation
Content Management System
Discussion Forum
Submission Form
Peer Feedback Form
Simple navigational bar
Content Management System
Discussion Forum
Auto-Graded Quizzes
Simple navigational bar
Course Content Course Syllabus
Weekly Assignments
Student Handbook
Open Lab
Streaming videos of advice / guidance
Presentation materials
Bank of Assignments to choose from
Open peer-reviewed journals (HTML or PDF files)
Book chapter (PDF file)
Blog posts
Online Magazine articles
Streaming videos of mini “popular culture “ movies
Streaming video of TEDx talk
2 x Google+ Hangout with Course Tutors (1 hour each)
Video lectures (1-3 mins. long)
Additional Readings
Assessment Bootcamp: 5%
Submitting 2 Assignments Ideas, 2 Tutorials, 2 Daily Creates: 5%
Participation (social media and weekly shows) 5%
Final Project: 15%
Radio Show: 10%
Weekly Work (encompasses storytelling assignments, daily creates, reflections, participation) 60%
Peer reviewed
Web-enabled media project (reflective of course themes)
Peer reviewed
Homework Assignments
Quizzes – Auto marked
Pedagogy Content as starting point, learners expected to create/extend
Media production
Formal Course Structure & Flow
Inquiry based
Media production
Formal Course Structure & Flow
Rote Learning
Interaction Aggregated Blog posts (Distributed)
Twitter hashtag (#ds106)
Centralised Discussion forum
Aggregated Blog posts (Distributed)
Twitter hashtag (#edcmooc)
Centralised Discussion forum
Learner Spaces Students generate spaces that enable them to interact with each other, their tutors and the wider community using the tools as suggested by their tutors. Student-generated spaces were created to support collaboration and co-operation between students on the course, using such technologies as: Facebook; Twitter; Google+; Google Docs; Flickr; Vimeo; YouTube; Wallwisher; and personal blogs There does not appear to be any significant student-generated spaces, whether this is down to the type of student enrolled on this course or the nature of the course I do not know.
Philosophy This course has taken a very connectivist approach that expects students to develop their online identities and to engage with each-other and the wider online community. Many of the tasks tend to cognitive in nature. The course comes in three flavours: A UMW student; A student from a different course/university; and an “open participant”. The Coursera platform typically adopts a behaviourist model. In this particular course, the tutors took on a more constructivist paradigm. Some of the more “connected” students had galvanised themselves into Peer Learning Networks (PLN) and adopted a more connectivist approach to their learning providing a much more richer experience. The Udacity platform appears to have adopted a behaviourist model where students are expected to duplicate or master the content is someway.


EDC-MOOC Team. (2013). Teaching ‘E-learning and Digital Cultures’ Blog. Available at: [Accessed 11.3.2013].

Levine, A. (2013). “ds106: Not a Course, Not Like Any MOOC”. EDUCAUSE Review, January/February 2013, pp. 54-55. Available at: [Accessed 11.3.2013].

Pendleton, B. (2012). “Comparing the Coursera and Udacity Cryptography classes”. Journal of a Programmer, 21.5.2012. Available at: [Accessed 11.3.2013].

Regehr, J. (2012). “Recording a Class at Udacity”. Embedded in Academia, 23.5.2012. Available at: [Accessed 11.3.2013].

3 thoughts on “Comparing the MOOC dot com #h817open

  1. Wayne,

    Could you please explain the difference between behaviorist vs cognitive approaches as pertaining to the way you used the terms to differentiate between the philosophies of ds106 vs Coursera and Udacity.

    A side note, I am taking another Coursers course which is a blend of the #edcmooc and the Udacity approach. I remember Daphne Koller saying when questioned about the balance of peer interaction and different methods of assessment in Coursera sponsored courses that policy stated it was left up to the individual faculty to design.

    1. Hi Deborah,

      Thank you for your message, with regards to the MOOCs that I looked at I interpreted the Coursera (some aspects of it) and Udacity (with what I was able to extrapolate elsewhere) as being ‘behaviourist’ in approach, by that I mean there seems to be a reliance on multiple-choice questionnaires (MCQs) that seemed distinctly ‘drill and practice’. I’m not sure where the cognitive approaches come in as I didn’t refer to them, I am assuming that you actually meant constructivism, which I did refer to, this bit really relates to some aspects of the Coursera course where students were given opportunities to make sense of the material (both tutor-generated and student-generated) based upon their own experiences and prior knowledge and understanding of learning and teaching within a digital online environment.

      Hope that helps? 🙂

      Best wishes,


  2. Nice comparison, Wayne! I appreciate seeing the differences. If you want to see something recent that was also more connectivist, you could look at ETMOOC ( If you want specific information about it, let me know–I just finished it. I’m clhendricksbc on Twitter.

    ETMOOC was heavily connectivist, with most of the course taking place on blogs, Twitter and Google+. There were weekly synchronous sessions (also recorded) and a weekly Twitter chat, but no assessments. I thought it was an utterly fantastic experience!

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