New initiative to study MOOCs with Gates Foundation grants

Grant applicants could be awarded up to $25,000.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has spent millions of dollars helping to bolster non-profit massive open online course (MOOC) providers like Khan Academy and edX. Now, they’re putting $400,000 toward the much-hyped technology in an effort to answer the question: are MOOCs actually effective?

Called the MOOC Research Initiative, the project aims to address what the foundation refers to as a “research gap” by examining MOOCs and the impact they have on teachers, students and education in general.

“To date, the impact of MOOCs has been largely disseminated through press releases and university reports,” the project’s co-founder, George Siemens, said in a blog post on the project’s web site. “The peer-reviewed research on MOOCs has been minimal. The proliferation of MOOCs in higher education requires a concerted and urgent research agenda.”

Siemens is the associate director of the Technology Enhanced Knowledge Research Institute at Athabasca University. He was an early adopter of MOOCs, having taught an open online course through the University of Manitoba in 2008.

See Page 2 for what aspects of MOOCs the research will cover. 

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