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What is a SPOC/MOOC?

Posted on May 2, 2019 at 8:50 AM

I am quite a fan of SPOCs and MOOCs, but the concept is still quite unknown and someone asked me to write a piece on this. What is the difference between a SPOC and a MOOC? And how is this different from e.g. e-learning? What makes them so interesting and good? And why am I such a fan?


MOOC stands for Massive Open Online Course and SPOC for Small Private Online Course. A MOOC is freely available to everyone without any admission fees. At times, the provider may ask for a certificate fee, but this is usually optional. A SPOC is less freely available and often times an admission fee is requested. SPOCs and MOOCs both can be offered by companies, organisations and institutions alike. The most important aspect of these concepts is the social learning.


The difference between a SPOC/MOOC and e-learning can mostly be found in the social aspect of the environment. Within e-learning, all the information is provided and the participant goes through the programme, at times at their own pace, at times at a prescribed pace, but usually individually. With a MOOC/SPOC, it is very important that it is only open for a set period of time as the most important element of it is the interaction with the other participants. You do not merely participate to gain knowledge, it is just as important to share your knowledge with your peers. The goal is to be highly interactive. With this in mind, it is important that the environment is also adjusted to that goal (i.e. open, challenging questions, short texts, stimulating clips).


In my blog for Next Learning Valley, I provide tips on how to construct a MOOC/SPOC in such a way that participants gain most from it, but will also be interested in coming back for more information. Nowadays, people are less willing to pay for things they do not see the value of, but when the value is established, they are willing to pay for that. There is so much knowledge and information freely available, it is the expertise people are looking for.


I am a huge fan of SPOCs and MOOCs as I believe that this concept can be of great support to a new construct of education. It is old-fashioned to sit in classrooms all day. Even in secondary and primary schools, this is no longer a given. With the growing shortages in employees, employers need them on the floor as much as possible. Information is freely available, but we need to learn from each other and in interaction as well. The world is one big learning community and everything you wish to learn can be found, provided by professionals who know what they are talking about.

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