Understanding the MOOC Scoreboard: Methodology and Misconceptions

Since Open Education Europa launched in September 2013, the European MOOCs Scoreboard has been consulted over 18,000 times! 

We are the only organisation with a comprehensive database of the MOOCs offered by European institutions. In the spirit of open knowledge, we'd like to explain more fully where the numbers on the scoreboard come from and what they mean.

MOOC Scoreboard

How we created our MOOC database

When we first started preparing to launch Open Education Europa, we attempted to make contact with every higher education institution in Europe, asking to whether or not they offered any MOOCs or other open educational resources. Hundreds of institutions answered us, and with the information they provided we started populating our database. Then we went to the websites of the institutions who had not responded and searched for publicly available MOOCs, which we also added to the database. Finally, we cross-checked with other MOOC providers and aggregators such as iversity and OpenupEd.

Updating the scoreboard

On an ongoing basis, we monitor for new MOOCs by using Google alerts, RSS feeds, and manual searches. The institutions we have contact with update us when they have new courses. We also check the MOOC providers and aggregators every month to see what’s new. As soon as we find a new MOOC online, we add it to our database. That means that some MOOCs are counted in the scoreboard before the start date of the course.

By the way, if you happen to know about a secret stash of MOOCs that aren’t included in our database, please tip us off!

Gathering international data

In addition to comparing countries within Europe, we compare Europe with the rest of the world. It is simply not possible for us to contact every higher education institution in the world, so we rely on the information available on MOOC providers and aggregators such as Coursera, edX, Open2Study, etc… There’s really no need to list them here – the full list of websites we consult is available on the scoreboard itself.

What we count as a MOOC

What is a MOOC? That’s the million dollar question, but trying to pin down a definition for a rapidly evolving concept seems a bit impatient. 

Without presuming to have the definitive answer, here are the criteria we use for the MOOCs included in our database.

  • Massive, in the sense of no limit to attendance
  • 'Open' in the sense that it can be accessed by anyone anywhere as long as they have an internet connection
  • Free of charge (not including the certificate of completion)
  • Online
  • Structured around a set of learning goals in a defined area of study
  • Executed according to a specific time frame with a start and end date
  • Offers possibilities for interaction such as social media channels, forums, blogs or RSS feeds to build a learning community
  • Course materials such as videos, readings, and others, are provided free of charge by the course designers, teachers, facilitators or even students themselves (cMOOCs)
  • Includes assessment or evaluation, self assessment or peer assessment

As the field of MOOCs fragments and expands into new forms of open online learning, we may need to update our criteria. If/when that happens, we will announce it clearly in our blog and on the scoreboard itself.

Common misconceptions

Misconception #1: The scoreboard only shows current MOOCs

The scoreboard shows MOOCs that are currently online, which may include MOOCs that haven’t started yet. For example, Futurelearn is already accepting registrations for courses that start in June 2014. Those courses are listed on our website and included in the scoreboard.

Another crucial point to note is that the scoreboard data are cumulative. That is, we don’t delete MOOCs once they’re over. If a course is offered more than once, we would add any subsequent session as a new entry, i.e. Basic Economics (2nd Edition).

Misconception #2: The distribution of MOOCs by subject includes all MOOCs

This statistic is based on the information in our MOOC database, which means that it only includes those from European institutions.

We welcome your comments, suggestions, or questions about the scoreboard. Please feel free to leave a comment below or email us at contact[at]openeducationeuropa[dot]eu

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