(From left to right) Satu Manninen, Ellen Turner, and Cecilia Wadsö Lecaros of Lund University


Satu Manninen, Ellen Turner, and Cecilia Wadsö Lecaros of Lund University in Sweden outline why Massive Open Online Courses are becoming increasingly popular around the world

Massive open online courses, (MOOCs), are becoming increasingly popular in higher education, and many of the world’s leading universities are offering MOOCs. Anyone with an internet connection can sign up for a MOOC: there are no entrance exams, no application forms and usually no tuition fees. The course enrollment dates are flexible, with courses starting several times each term.

A typical MOOC will run anywhere from a few weeks to a few months. The courses are often self-paced, which means that participants can complete them faster or more slowly, depending on their individual learning goals, previous knowledge and skills, and on how much time they are willing and able to invest in the course activities.

The course materials are available to participants around the clock throughout the duration of the course. The materials typically consist of readings and interactive tools, such as video lectures, quizzes and discussions on user forums. Some MOOCs also provide teacher feedback on submitted work.

Although a typical MOOC will not give academic credits and a learner enrolled on a MOOC is not a registered student at the university that is offering the MOOC, there are still many advantages with taking such courses.

  • MOOC may allow you to acquire knowledge and extra skills that are necessary in your academic or professional life;

  • MOOC may provide education that enables further studies

  • MOOC may offer a first introduction to a topic that interests you.

The biggest MOOC providers, such as Coursera and edX, have thousands of courses available on subjects like biology, mathematics, literature, economy and languages, so there is something for everyone.

Our own MOOC is called Writing in English at University. It is based on an on-campus course that we deliver within the English department at Lund University in Sweden, and it is free of charge, in partnership with Coursera. The course is aimed at university students who are currently involved in writing assignments or theses.

However, the course is also useful for those who want to learn more about academic writing or who just want to be better prepared for writing at university or in their professional life. Although the course provides guidance to all writers, it is specifically designed for students who are writing in second language context and whose native language is not English.

The course is divided into four modules. Each module consists of lessons that have 1-2 video lectures, readings, quizzes and other exercises, and links to further materials. In some lessons, there are also peer review tasks where the participants reflect on their own writing skills and abilities, and discuss their ideas on the user forum.

Another resource that our MOOC draws on heavily is the Academic Writing in English at Lund University-platform (AWELU). This is an open, free online resource that covers various central aspects of academic writing in English.

The goal of our MOOC and the AWELU-platform is to enhance learners’ writing skills within the academic context at university and to help them organize their own “toolboxes” of academic narrative.

Although the MOOC does not accord academic credits to enrolled learners who are not categorized as students at Lund University, it provides the same knowledge and skills base pertaining to our on-campus writing courses at Lund University. Some of the MOOC resources, such as the video lectures which can be replayed, paused, or fast-forwarded depending on individual requirements, are also used by on-campus students. They, too, benefit from being able to view learning materials at a flexible pace.