The MOOC site Coursera has just hit the two million mark, so I guess it's time to say something about it.
There's loads written on the MOOC phenomenon, so I won't go into any detailed explanations.
I'll just add my two cents-worth in a couple of points.
I've tried three different Coursera courses so far, all from renouned American universities (Princeton, Duke and Caltech). They are all very different in the ways they use technology. Obiously some teething problems to sort out. In one case the video of the lecture shows the whiteboard being written. The text appears on the screen in real time as if by magic (or at any rate, technology) while we are actually watching it. You can hear the marker moving over the board. I think it would have been nice to see the lecturer, but this is the world of high tech.
In another case, you see the lecturer on one corner, while the presentation slides accompanying the lecture as well as the web sites and other images are on the rest of the screen. Every now and again the video stops and an interactive multiple-choice questionnaire appears. A big improvement on the first one, although that too had embedded multiple choice questionnaires.
In the third case, the professor's video image moves all around the screen, to complement the logic propositions the students are examining.
All this is very nifty. But for some reason it needs fairly up-to-date equipment to view the videos. Ironically, the lectures are also available on Youtube, where they can be viewed with much more mundane equipment. There even screen shots of the embedded questionnaires.
I asked about these technical quirks. The response was that the videos had been tested on a wide range of platforms. Ipads and workstations were mentioned, among others. Nothing like starting at the top!
Second point: textbooks.
Third point: certificates
Finally, I' ve just enrolled for a music improvisation course, to start next April. Can't wait to see how they do that on Coursera.