In education, we often hear arguments in favor of smaller class sizes. These arguments contend that students learn better when there are fewer of them in a class, because each one gets more individualized attention from the instructor.
So it may seem counter-intuitive to support classes that can swell to several thousand participants. How can students learn in these sorts of settings? How can instructors handle the crowd?
The answers to these questions aren't found in traditional classrooms -- no surprise. It's hard to imagine 2,000 students in a traditional lecture hall having a very rich or engaging learning experience. But engaged learning is what you find among the thousands of students who participate in a MOOC.
The acronym MOOC stands for Massive Open Online Course. The meaning of "massive" is obvious; a MOOC can range from several hundred to several thousand participants. But it isn't just the size of the classes or even their location -- online -- that make MOOCs different.