Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are free online courses available for anyone to enroll. MOOCs provide an affordable and flexible way to learn new skills, advance your career and deliver quality educational experiences at scale. is an extension of, a leader in online courses.

In order to design a good MOOCs, we need to consider the five principle of MOOCs: meaningful, engaging, measurable, accessible, scalable.

  • Meaningful. The goal is to create a meaningful content, focused on the topic, presented using the variety of tools and techniques exists to facilitate the learning in a MOOC, including cognitive and meta-cognitive prompts, study guides, concept maps, and self-assessment. The system should encourage students to share ideas and examples, helping in this way the less experienced students.
  • Engaging. MOOCs present a challenge in engaging students because of their massive size. Instructors do not have the energy and time to interact with students in the same way they can in smaller classes. We have two general types of engagement: cognitive engagement (video lectures, immediate feedback through automated grading) and social engagement (discussion forums, virtual chat rooms, regional meet-ups, automated email messages and reminders).
  • Measurable. The massive size allows for and calls for vastly more precise evaluation and assessment, unavailable in smaller class sizes, coupled with the technology inherent with MOOCs, allows for more meticulous evaluation of course efficacy. Statistics software can be used to relate success on the exam with various factors in students and their usage of class materials. Furthermore, instructors can continuously monitor and research learning goal out-comes to provide immediate feedback during the course.
  • Accessible. Because of the open nature of MOOCs, students of all sorts can join the class: with different level of knowledge, with different goals, with different technical resources (internet connections, computer, etc) and possible suffering from a variety of disabilities. It is impossible to address all the variations, nor is it recommended, but placing an emphasis on accessibility is necessary for satisfying truly massive numbers of students.
  • Scalable. Scalable systems have the capability of growing from small to large with only minimal adjustments. The course should be designed for thousands of students using automated systems enabled by internet technologies.

Most MOOCs offered by quality platforms share the common components:

  1. A video component: The teacher records a lecture that’s typically broken into small chunks (two to ten minutes). Other media (YouTube clips, etc.) is often integrated into the lecture as well.
  2. Reading material: Free eBooks or other written materials are usually required or recommended.
  3. Integrated activities: One great feature that MOOCs usually utilize is breaking up lectures and reading with activities that vary depending on the course. There activities could take the form of questions, a small-scale project (such as developing one or two line of programming core) or redirecting to an outside source of information or experience.
  4. Course-Specific forums: Since you can’t interact with other students or your professor in person, it’s important to have a way to ask questions and get other perspectives online.
  5. Sectional or weekly organization: most MOOCs are organized into a series of sections or weeks.
  6. Sectional test or project: you can usually expect there to be some sort of project or test at the end of each section to reinforce what was learned in that section or week.
  7. Final examination or project: there is typically some sort of final examination or project that measures whether the student has an acceptable grasp on the skills and concepts presented in the course. Most MOOCs are “pass/fail” meaning that there isn’t a letter grade given out and some give you the option to keep trying until you succeed.

Examples of MOOC Platforms

edX  –  Founded by Harvard and MIT, edX is home to more than 20 million learners, the majority of top-ranked universities in the world and industry-leading companies. As a global nonprofit, edX is transforming traditional education, removing the barriers of cost, location and access.

FutureLearn  –  Access to high quality learning wherever you are, with online courses, programs and degrees created by leading universities, business schools and specialist organisations.

Examples of MOOC for Palliative Care Learning

End of Life Care: Challenges and Innovation – Explore dying and palliative care practice around the world and evaluate new trends and ideas surrounding end of life care issues.

Improving Palliative Care in Care Homes for Older People – Examine how care homes are organised in Europe and how palliative care in care homes can be improved for older people.

MedLang – Massive open online courses with videos for palliative clinical field and intercultural and multilingual medical communication.

Palliative Care: It’s Not Just Hospice Anymore Specialization – Covers core concepts on the nature of suffering and demonstrates how to evaluate suffering and illustrates this in realistic patient scenarios.

Benefits of MOOCs

Courses are offered for free to a vast and diverse audience across the globe from recognised leaders in teaching and learning.

Challenges of MOOCs

having large numbers of students from diverse backgrounds can make the tracking of individuals students’ engagement and understanding of the learning materials difficult.

Other considerations

It is best to have start and end dates to a cohort of students enrolled on a MOOC so that they learn at roughly the same pace and it is easier for tutors to keep on top of any questions or comments that need to be addressed.

MOOCs are also resource intensive and expensive to create. Many are provided free to the students with an additional paid component for those wishing to have marked assignments and/or accreditation of their learning.


  1. Drake, J. R., O’Hara, M., Seeman, E. (2015). Five principles for MOOC design: With a case study. Journal of Information Technology Education: Innovations in Practice, 14, 125-143.