Online learning for ordinary individuals has been going on quietly and consistently since the earliest days of personal computers. In the pre-internet days, anyone with a dial-up connection could connect with various communities and expand their knowledge base, acquire new skills, and just share information and news. Online learning has been developing in tandem with technology for about a quarter century. Steal a look at what the world online looked like back in 1995 when the online environment was well underway, and compare it to how it looks today.
Stephen Downes, who along with David Cormier, developed and provided the first MOOC in 2008 presents an excellent overview of the growth and development of online learning in his article E Learning Generations. For anyone that might still take exception to my assertion that the first MOOC took place in 2008 rather than at Stanford in 2011, there is a great rant on the subject on Audrey Watters Blog, Hacker Education. The Connectivist approach MOOC that took place in 2008, Connectivism and Connective Knowledge 2008 (CCK08), saw significant success. The course looked nothing like the xMOOC courses offered today.
The experience was learner centered and largely learner driven. It focused on utilizing current technologies with emphasis on connectivity through social media, learner usage of Open Source software and media such as WordPress, You Tube, Scirbd, and Wikis. Even course content was predominantly learner driven and provided. While the MOOC did not resemble a traditional higher education course in any way, participants could achieve a Certificate in Adult Education (CAE), offered by the University of Manitoba.
A cMOOC relies heavily on existing Open Source resources or develops new Open Source resources to accommodate one or more MOOCs. Funding is generated from public, philanthropic, and educational non-profit organizations. Depending on the MOOC, private sector donations are also a possible source of revenue. As a result, cMOOCs are not experiencing the pressure to monetize that xMOOCs are currently facing. This does mean that cMOOCs do not enjoy all the flashy benefits that xMOOCs provide. For a more in-depth look at into Stephen Downes work on connectivism and MOOCs, please visit his web site and take a look at his e-book, Connectivism and Connective Knowledge made available under Creative Commons License.