If you haven’t been following open and online education closely, you may be under the impression that MOOCs began with Sebastian Thrun and Peter Norvig’s Artificial Intelligence course in Fall 2011. The term is actually borrowed from a type of course pioneered by a group of (primarily) Canadian educators starting around 2008.
Their MOOC (now commonly referred to as a “connectivist MOOC” or “cMOOC”) was significantly different than the Udacity-Coursera-edX model that followed (referred to in the business as “xMOOCs”). Rather than being organized on a central platform, they were convened in a distributed manner across the web on blogs, Twitter, wikis and other web 2.0 tools, often tied together using RSS or other aggregation tools.
New York educator Fred Bartels has posted an excellent visualization that helps explain how such a distributed course works, taking the Media Lab’s Learning Creative Learning course as a model: