Upscaling the number of learners, fragmenting the role of teachers: How do massive open online courses (MOOCs) form new conditions for learning design?

Mie Buhl*, Lars Birch Andreasen, Karanam Pushpanadham

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


The proliferation and expansion of massive open online courses (MOOCs) prompts a need to revisit classical pedagogical questions. In what ways will MOOCs facilitate and promote new e-learning pedagogies? Is current learning design adequate for the “massiveness” and “openness” of MOOCs? This article discusses the ways in which MOOCs create new conditions for designing learning processes. The authors present various theoretical approaches to learning design and discuss a combination of theoretical perspectives. They discern a fragmentation of the teacher role; where the teacher was once the main person responsible for planning, practice and reflection, those activities may now be performed by different actors with different areas of responsibility. The theoretical discussion is complemented by a review of recent studies of new practices and design formats aiming to overcome the upscaling issues of MOOCs. The authors present a multifaceted picture of MOOC methodologies, including a typology of hybrid approaches to MOOC design. Through the example of MOOC implementation in India, they address the integration of MOOCs into formal higher education systems. They conclude their article with the contention that, through upscaling, important facets of students’ intellectual development and critical thinking might be left to the students themselves. This may cause problems. Adequate scaffolding from a teacher, such as adapting activities to the specific situation, might be needed to develop the skills required to be a self-directed learner. Furthermore, upscaling seems to promote a separation of the formerly unified teacher functions of planning, teaching and assessing, which necessitates increased collaboration among the many new actors in the field of pedagogy.

Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Review of Education
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)179-195
Number of pages17
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2018


  • course design
  • designing learning processes
  • instructional design
  • learning design
  • massive open online courses (MOOCs) in higher education
  • teacher roles


Dive into the research topics of 'Upscaling the number of learners, fragmenting the role of teachers: How do massive open online courses (MOOCs) form new conditions for learning design?'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.
  • MOOCs - Digital Trend or Educational Revolution?

    Buhl, M., 14 Dec 2018, p. 10.

    Research output: Contribution to conference without publisher/journalConference abstract for conferenceResearch

    Open Access

Cite this