Daily Tasks on Thursday, 01-15-2015


Today, I will report on the question “What are the differences between MOOCs and Webinars?”. The students presented MOOCs and webinars that they were attending. Most of them presented MOOCs and so did I .

The acronym MOOC represent “Massive Online Open Course”. This describes several specialities: large amount of contributors and it’s open all the time (during a special course period of course). In general MOOCs are parts of a course platform, such as “coursera.org”. So you can register once on the platform, search for courses and easily join a course. Many courses come with a certification – in my case, it would be signed by the university that offered the course. A well-known address by the way!

Typical elements of MOOCs are:

  • video lectures
  • assignments / homeworks
  • wikis
  • discussion forums

The videos often contain interactive elements like multiple choice or even essay questions that you need to submit in order to continue the video. They are often focussed on the slides and you do not see the speaker all the time (except for Hasso Plattner Institut, where you can arrange the video of the speaker and the slides yourself). Many courses also offer transcripts, so that you can review what the speaker said. One report that I had to grade also showed a marker within the interactive transcript that would change when you play the video – nice! Additional resources can be found on the wiki-like pages. Discussion Forums seem to be the connecting element in MOOCs because they are the only place where you can interact with other contributors and the course leaders, too – they enrich the community aspect. Here, you can ask questions if you didn’t understand the videos or assignments.

How does this differ from webinars? Well, webinars take place in a fixed time and by having a video-chat with further elements. Webinars are live, so you can directly interact with the speaker while he’s explaining. This goes towards the traditional face-to-face learning – but mostly, the learners can see the instructor, but not reverse. I attended a private webinar at a big world-wide company, where the instructor described his feeling: “I’m feeling like talking to nobody, because nobody will respond directly, but use the chat.” As an instructor, you will need some time to get familiar with that.

The live chats allow rich interactive elements, such as collaborative drawings, the transmission of the screen and so on. While attending, they seem to feel more alive than MOOCs do. You feel like you need to complete the session, for example, because you are involved in a higher degree. The control is mostly done by the instructor. In MOOCs, the learner decides when he/she wants to watch certain contents. You can pause or even leave video lectures all the time – nobody will take notice of this. So the learner is more responsible for him-/herself and needs to show basic discipline.

A big advantage on attending MOOCs is the organization of assignments as I think: you can hand-in your exercises until some deadline and it will be graded and given feedback by the instructors. This is really helpful if you think of the “application level” of Bloom’s taxononmy. I don’t think that webinars allow this. They appear to be more frontal-education: you sit back and follow the instructions, but usually you don’t have to hand-in assignments to proof that you can apply the new knowledge. I also think that webinars don’t contain as many questions as video lectures in MOOCs do.

To sum it up: if you should attend a MOOC or a webinar depends on your purposes. If you want to attend a course by deep immersion and constantly working through contents and exercises you should attend a MOOC. This will allow you to build up a good level of knowledge over the weeks. If you want to get a brief overview about certain topic with the chance to actively ask questions and profit by other users’ interactions, then you should attend a webinar.

Learning Goals

So let me finish by stating learning goals as usual:

  • The learner is able to separate MOOCs and webinars.
  • The learner can differnentiate the goals of both MOOCs and webinars.
  • The learner is able to make a solid decision on ether attending a MOOC or webinar.