Massive Open Online Course (MOOC)
Raising human awareness and building capacity about outer space field is essential to attain this vision. MOOCs are particularly well suited to address these ambitions for multiple reasons. Firstly, most MOOCs can be audited1 free of charge and are accessible to anyone with an internet connection. For those eager to obtain a certificate, price per course range between 41 to 92 euros on most platforms (2018 data). Furthermore, majority of courses on outer space topics are offered at introductory level and have no other prerequisites than high school level mathematics and physics knowledge. Moreover, well-known MOOCs platforms such as Coursera, EdX and Future Learn (The Chronicle of Higher Education, 2012) offer intuitive and user-friendly interfaces so even the users with limited digital skills can easily join the MOOCs. Additionally, search engines such as “MOOC-list” provides an overview of available MOOCs across different platforms.
Secondly, a wide variety of providers offer their courses on MOOCs platforms including ivy league higher education institutions (e.g. MIT), space agencies (e.g. ESA) and research centers (e.g. UNITAR). Thus, many high-quality courses are available, examining the space topics from different angles. Thirdly, MOOCs employ interactive methods and self-paced learning to cover the material. Finally, MOOCs have no limits on maximum number of enrolments per course (Sultan, 2015). Thus, MOOCs have potential to provide accessible, high quality, engaging and scalable courses on outer space topics. The first MOOC date back to 2008 (Mallon, 2013) while public interest about this topic peaked in 2013 (Google Trends, 2018). The key issues facing MOOCs are high drop-out rates and difficulties with accreditation (Muhammad, 2015). To accredit a course, it needs to meet certain quality standards. One of the main challenges of MOOCs platforms is its limited capacity to assess whether participants have completed the assessments and final exams themselves. To address this issue, several providers have chosen to work with physical test centres, where participants can conduct the final exam in person. Furthermore, some platforms choose to record their examinees by a webcam or use a software that compares typing styles with the patterns previously recorded in the classroom exercises (Kaplan, 2016). At the same time, alternative credits and professional certificates are offered upon successful completion of MOOCs. Furthermore, MOOCs are also integrated into regular degrees and programs (Canvas Network, 2016).
In addition, SPOCs courses can be used to further build specialized knowledge in outer space field. These courses are usually more advanced and require prior knowledge of the field (prerequisites). Furthermore, less students are enrolled in these courses and application process is more competitive. In these courses students receive more guidance and feedback from their professors. However, SPOCs are also costlier (e.g. over 500 euros) and rarely provide auditing options before subscribing to the course. Successful completion of MOOCs and SPOCs require discipline, and therefore graduates of these courses tend to be older (25-35 years) and often hold a first degree from a traditional university (80%). The importance of MOOCs and SPOOCs is likely to increase in the future (Kaplan, 2016).