Higher education is entering a phase of dramatic change and innovation. Mainstream media often present massive open online courses (MOOCs) as both a reflection of the need for universities to undergo a metamorphosis and as a means of forcing a new perspective on digital teaching and learning practices (i.e., Lewin, 2013; Pappano, 2012). However, university faculty caution that there is not enough research evidence to support widespread adoption. Two significant challenges around the role of MOOCs in higher education are prevalent. First, the discussion on MOOCs to-date has occurred mainly in mainstream media and trade publications. Although some peer-reviewed articles on MOOCs currently exist (e.g., Fini, 2009; Kop, 2011), the amount of available research is generally limited. One of the goals of this special issue is to attempt to address this lack of peer reviewed literature. Second, the vast research available in online and distance education has been largely ignored by mainstream media and MOOC providers. Paying greater attention to what is already known about learning in online and virtual spaces, how the role of educators and learners is transformed in these contexts, and how social networks extend a learning network will enable mainstream MOOC providers and their partners to make evidence-based decisions in favor of educational reform. Thus, a second goal of this special issue is to highlight this research and provide an historical context for online and distance learning not currently evident in the mainstream media treatment of MOOCs.
Siemens, G., Irvine, V. & Code, J. (Eds.). (2013). Massive Open Online Courses [Special issue]. Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 9(2).