Explored with excitement (Krause & Lowe, 2014), trepidation (Pappano, 2012), and skepticism (Sharma, 2013), the Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) model of instruction has been a growing trend in education since 2008. Scholars tracing published explorations of MOOCs offer the following definition:

A MOOC brings together people interested in learning (or "students") and an expert or experts who seek to facilitate the learning. Connectivity is usually provided through social networking, and a set of freely accessible online resources provides the content or the study material. Furthermore, they generally have no prerequisites, fees, formal accreditation, or predefined required level of participation (McAuley, Stewart, Siemens, & Cormier, 2010). Participation in a MOOC is completely voluntary and is dependent on the interested individual. The collaborative space of a MOOC can span across many different platforms and technologies. (Liyanagunawardena, Adams, & Williams, 2013, p. 204).

The MOOC instructional space has inspired optimism for some writing scholars, creating complex questions such as the ones pondered by Bill Hart-Davidson. (Click on the transcript for video.)

Often thought of as a method of instruction that can be provided at minimal effort and cost, the MOOC concept also inspires hope for education on such a large scale that it can be overwhelming to conceptualize, as noted by Patricia James.

Pat JamesPat James: The idea of a MOOC really worked well for [a developmental writing course] because everybody can do it, it doesn't cost anything, [and] it was short-term. It was kind of minimal as far as (we thought at the time) the effort to teach it which we found out was completely false. That's not true. [Laughter] It would also serve our community because at the community college you're trying to deal with people who want education who don't necessarily want a degree. And so there's a large community that wants you to serve them as well. So we thought this would be a really good opportunity for that.

I was speaking with then-Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs in the Chancellor's office and he said, "Are you guys gonna do this? Are you gonna actually do this course?" And I said, "Yeah, we're trying to figure out how to do it. We're gonna see what we can do on our own." I was thinking web-based, on our own; at the time, I wasn't really sure how I was going to go about it. He connected me with Coursera, with Daphne Koller, and I had several conversations with her, and her idea of educating the world, that philosophy that started her in this movement. She said, "We're not bringing the best to the people who need it the most."

She really, I think, lives by that, and even though there's been a lot of hype around monetizing MOOCs, in her heart of hearts, she did it for the idea of educating the world. I think she still feels that way, and I'd go to the mat for her on that. I do it because I want to live in a world where people can check their facts. I want to live in a world where people are educated. I have grandchildren; I want them to live in a world where people are taking care of the planet, and you know, have common sense, and are educated enough to be able to read things on their own and figure out on their own what's really happening rather than take somebody else's word for it. We're a real gullible society, and that's due to a lack of education. That's how I feel. That's just my own personal philosophy, so it fit well with what Coursera was doing at the time.

Building on this interest in the broader field of education, writing scholars from institutions of higher learning have begun to create and use this instructional model as well. Experiences with creating, participating in, and leading MOOCs can be as varied as the topics for which instruction is offered. In an effort to understand how this online delivery method of content can potentially function in a writing classroom, this webtext draws together the experiences of six different writing scholars who have participated in various aspects of creating and delivering MOOC instruction.

This interview text models the format of a discussion forum, often cited as being of central importance in a MOOC for creating interaction (Moore, 1989; Anderson, 2003; Miyazoe & Anderson, 2010). While the experts who make up this discussion were interviewed separately, the interactive nature of their responses led to the creation of interconnected threads of conversation–ideas and concepts common across all of the discussions that will allow readers to learn more about MOOCs in a way that listening to individual interviews does not. Clicking on the transcript text in each thread will call up video or audio clips of each expert. The webtext is arranged into six threads: Roles of Teachers and Learners in a Writing MOOC, Advice for Creating and Using a MOOC, Community in a MOOC, Participants in a MOOC, Creating and Delivering a Writing MOOC, and an array of Final Considerations, all of which can be navigated to from the Discussion Board menu.

Explore the interviews as your interests guide you. Read, view, or skip as you choose. That is the beauty of a MOOC-like space. You can learn at your own pace.