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What is a SPOC Anyway? A glossary of common MOOC terms

A theme that emerged in the sessions at the Learning with MOOCs Workshop was the need for collaboration across industries to continue to improve the effectiveness of MOOCs. Each industry had a unique perspective and an ability to obtain unique data sets that will help us reveal the true value of MOOCs.

To that end, we at ExtensionEngine are committed to providing educational resources to ensure that everyone interested in MOOCs is fluent in the various characteristics and terms of this nascent platform. We hope that the following glossary helps you as you think about how to design and develop MOOCs for your organization. [EDIT: we did a 2nd post on MOOC terms as well.]

Glossary of Terms Relevant to the MOOC Revolution:

MOOC – MOOC stands for Massive Open Online Course. They typically include a collection of many of the following learning objects: video lectures, online readings, problem sets, quizzes, and student interaction. The goal of MOOCs is to reach a much larger audience than traditional courses can accommodate and to foster interaction between people with similar interests across the world. OPEN

SPOC – SPOC stands for Small Private Online Course. In contrast to MOOCs, SPOCs represent a blended teaching approach that utilizes the power of online platforms in more intimate, traditional course settings. San Jose State is one college that has initiated a SPOC partnership with edX and has had promising results so far. See here

Pedagogy – Pedagogy refers to the science of education, including the design of learning environments and study of their relative effectiveness. It is also used to define different approaches to teaching and learning, eg a connectivist or constructivist pedagogy.

Pasteur’s Quadrant – Pasteur’s quadrant refers to a hybrid approach to traditional scientific research strategies. Much research is categorized into the specialized categories of “basic” research or “applied” research. Basic research is research that aims to discover nature of things, whereas applied research is that which attempts to solve real-world problems. Research in Pasteur’s Quadrant is thought to provide both basic and applied research value. The name is derived from Louis Pasteur, whose research was thought to represent both basic and applied strategies. This quadrant is often used to describe and classify research studies in education.

Pasteur's Quadrant

Behaviorism – Behaviorism is an educational theory that suggests that standardized tests provide a reliable measure for students’ knowledge. The idea arose with the development of public schools and the challenge of comparing the relative success of different teaching techniques. Critics of the behaviorist approach argue that not only do standardized tests fail to demonstrate the true ability of each student, but our reliance on them leads to inefficient teaching practices that focus on success on these tests. Some critics also shun the administration of anxiety-provoking exams.

Constructivism – Constructivism argues that learning occurs as a dialogue between prior knowledge and new material. To achieve meaningful learning outcomes learners must “construct” their own concept and update or revise it based on whether or not their interpretation was valid. A good example might be applying the scientific method to a different situation than the one you learned it in. Constructionism is Seymour Papert’s variation on this, but they basically mean the same thing. Project-based learning, learn-by-doing approaches, and simulation learning are all inspired by Constructivism.

OER – OER stands for Open Educational Resources, which refer to free teaching resources, such as documents and media files. OERs are openly licensed, which enables them to be free and limitlessly distributed. Though traditional educational materials are protected by copyrights, a significant amount of educational intellectual property has begun to be more flexibly licensed through Creative Commons.

CMS –CMS stands for Content Management System, which is a tool that can facilitate the development and implementation of MOOCs. CMS, which has been available since the late 1990s, enables content to be published, edited, and organized. The system is a popular application for MOOCs because it is conducive to collaborative work efforts and does not require hand coding.

LMS – LMS stands for Learning Management System, which is another application tool for implementing MOOCs. An LMS provides infrastructure that enables not on the creation and delivery of instructional content, but also the ability to track progress and collect all relevant data during the duration of a MOOC or traditional on-campus course.

OLI – OLI stands for Open Learning Initiative, which is a grant-funded program at Carnegie Mellon University and Stanford University aimed at improving the quality of teaching. The initiative provides high quality courses for people who want to learn how to teach effectively. The courses integrate evidence-based strategies to teach individuals the science of teaching and learning. The course also contributes data, the analysis of which can improve our understanding of the learning process.

Xblock – Xblock is a software tool used by edX to build courses. Written in Python, it enables course creators to build custom components into their MOOC courses. See our video post for a few XblocksExtensionEngine has developed.