Are Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) pedagogically innovative?

Alejandro Armellini
University of Northampton
Brenda Cecilia Padilla Rodriguez
Autonomous University of Nuevo Leon


While claims about pedagogic innovation in Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are common, most reports provide no evidence to justify those claims. This paper reports on a survey aimed at exploring how different stakeholders describe MOOCs, focusing on whether they would consider them pedagogically innovative, and if so, why. Respondents (n = 106) described MOOCs primarily as free, openly accessible online courses that attract large numbers of participants. Views on pedagogic innovation fell into three categories: 1) MOOCs are pedagogically innovative (15.1%). Explanations referred to the massiveness, openness and connectivism. None of the participants offered a clear definition of or criteria for pedagogic innovation. 2) MOOCs are not pedagogically innovative (84.9%). More than half of the respondents added an unsolicited opinion, including strong criticisms of MOOCs. 3) MOOCs may or may not be pedagogically innovative. The evidence suggests that caution should be exercised when characterising MOOCs as pedagogically innovative.

About the Author(s)...

Alejandro Armellini is a Professor of Learning and Teaching in Higher Education and Director of the Institute of Learning and Teaching at the University of Northampton, United Kingdom. His research focuses on learning innovation, capacity building and open practices. He has extensive international teaching and programme development experience. Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Brenda Cecilia Padilla Rodriguez is a post-doc researcher at the Autonomous University of Nuevo Leon. She is currently conducting a project to plan, create, and evaluate a study skills MOOC. She has also worked as a university lecturer and as an e-learning consultant. Her research focuses on online learning, pedagogic interactions and course effectiveness.
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