What makes a MOOC massive?

What exactly makes a MOOC massive?

By default I have always considered a MOOC to be massive based purely upon the large number of participants enrolling on a course. However I hadn’t really considered that it could be massive in terms of the large geographical distances that separate each student. Or perhaps the size of the course. Maybe it could be a mix of all three.

I read this short piece by Downes (2013) – a online learning researcher – who offered his thoughts:

“I’ve been asked this a few times recently, so I thought I should expend a few paragraphs describing the difference between online courses that are and are not ‘massive’. I argue, first, that it’s not the raw count of participants that’s important, but how the course is structured. It’s not simply a big course. Then given that caveat I go on to explain that a course needs 150 active participants to be thought of as ‘massive’ – this because 150 people – Dunbar’s Number – is more than any one person can attend to, and hence is a course that will resist groupish properties (such as an emphasis on sameness rather than diversity).”

I made this post in the hope that the #mscedc group could discuss their thoughts. I would, therefore, welcome any comments from my peers.

UPDATE (16th Feb 2017) – I posted this entry prior to starting the Stewart (2013) reading. I have just noticed Stewart defines “Massive” in the context of the MOOC.


Downes, S. (2013). What makes a MOOC massive? Retrieved: 15 February 2017. http://www.downes.ca/post/59842

Stewart, B. (2013). Massiveness + Openness = New Literacies of Participation? Journal of Online Learning and Teaching 9(2): pp. 228-238.


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