A MOOC is a MOOP: Massively Open Online Pilot

view from planeI’m decending from the 30K foot clouds of my experience at OpenVA. Once again, Jim Groom, Martha Burtis, and all of our good friends at UMW have hosted a great gathering of minds and provided an opportunity to OPENLY exchange ideas about teaching and learning in today’s rapidly changing environment(s).

One of the key takeaways for me is the power and creativity that can be unleashed by considering and approaching an innovative educational idea as a “pilot”. The word pilot, as I heard Martha talking, took on a whole new (or at least refined) meaning for me. Beyond my narrow understanding as an inaugural flight, with some bumps expected, it opened the door to possibilities and allowed for experimentation. It provided and (in some ways), even invited room for failure (in the most positive sense of the word). Although I’ve not read the book, I believe John C. Maxwell captures this notion in his book entitled Failing Forward: How to Make the Most of Your Mistakes. 

Thinking more about the idea of “pilots”, I connected the dots to reflect on the many discussions about MOOCs. From my perception, everyone is trying to define a MOOC as though it is one thing: i.e. a “class”, and even more, a finished product. As the definition of a MOOC is still being refined, it becomes even murkier, when we acknowledge that our individual understanding of the words “class” and “online” are not even the same. So, we have a language problem, or at least, an inability to come to the table with a common point of view. We seem to be close, but we all are still experimenting. It dawned onto me that in the frenzy to pontificate about MOOCs, we all need to take a softer approach and recognize that our collective ventures into the world of MOOCs is truly a MOOP; a MASSIVELY OPEN ONLINE PILOT.  Let the pilots flourish and let us gain insight as to what improves teaching and learning.


  1. I love the idea of your MOOP -- and it might be the only way I could ever get behind the entire MOOx phenomenon. One of the biggest issues I have with MOOCsteria is that so many of the players talk about the work they're doing as though it is fully-baked and addresses all the problems we have in higher education. When, really, the approach that most of these courses take is not terribly new and has never been truly proven.

  2. Nice post, Bud...and Martha is spot on. The good news is that the general public has suddenly discovered online education through MOOCs. The bad news is that the general public thinks MOOCs = online education.