McGillX FAQs


What is a MOOC?

  • The term refers to a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC). A MOOC is an online course for which the material is free of charge and open to anyone with Internet access.

Who offers MOOCs?

  • Three of the best-known MOOC platforms are edX, Udacity, and Coursera.
  • edX: A not-for-profit initiative founded by MIT and Harvard, edX is committed to offering courses through an interactive, web-based platform. As of June 2013, there are 28 Consortium partners including MIT, Harvard, and the University of California Berkeley as well as global partners such as the University of Queensland, Kyoto University, and Karolinska Institutet. See their website for a full list of edX partners
  • Udacity: Courses are created independently, with partners including San Jose State University, as well as industry professionals. See their website for a full list of Udacity partners.
  • Coursera: 81 Consortium partners include Johns Hopkins University, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Ohio State University. See their website for a full list of Coursera partners.

Why did McGill join edX?

  • edX provides McGill with a unique opportunity to continue to advance learning through teaching, scholarship, and service to society. McGill is committed to delivering outstanding education to our students; edX provides an opportunity to extend our on-campus learning network to a global audience.
  • edX is a non-profit consortium with a strong research mission in addition to a goal of providing global access to high quality learning experiences.
  • edX membership will permit access to datasets that will permit unprecedented opportunities for research on learning in digital environments. For more information, please see the official McGill press release.

What is the educational model of an edX MOOC?

  • edX MOOCs use a variety of web-based features including self-paced learning, online discussion groups, wiki-based collaborative learning, assessment of learning as a student progresses through a course, online laboratories and other interactive learning tools.
  • edX platforms are offered through open source software. This means that edX developers are able to contribute to and provide suggestions for improving the software in order to provide outstanding learning environments for users.

How are edX courses offered?

  • Enrolment in edX courses is managed through the edX website. Courses have different lengths, although most are comparable in length to campus-based courses. Some courses have synchronous components. See the edX student FAQ for more information.

Who are edX students?

  • Many edX students are considered to be non-traditional students who enrol in MOOCs to advance their continuing education objectives.
  • Demographics include (source):
    • General: Over one million course enrolments with students from over 200 countries;
    • Approximately 1/4 of users are female and 3/4 are male;
    • About 1/3 of the students do not have a postsecondary degree. As of June 2013 approximately 1/3 had a Bachelor’s degree, 1/4 a Master’s degree, and a small number, about 1/12, have a Ph. D. A little less than half of the students are from the U.S. The others come from around the world, including India, the UK, Brazil, Spain, Canada, Russia, Pakistan, Egypt, Australia and many other countries.

What courses will McGill be offering?

  • McGill is committed to offering two non-credit courses in January 2014 and at least two additional courses during 2014. An open call for proposals has invited McGill academic staff to submit their proposals for McGillX courses. The Advisory Group on Guidelines and Procedures for McGillX MOOCs will review proposals and select the courses according to a rigorous evaluation process, and advise the Provost on related matters.

How are MOOCs different from existing online courses at McGill?

  • McGill will use existing courses as the basis for MOOC courses. However, through partnership with edX, the courses will be modified using a variety of web-based features and edX open source software.

Are edX students McGill students?

  • McGill students can enrol in edX courses. The only requirement to enrol in an edX course is a computer and Internet access. However, if a McGill student enrols in a McGillX course, he or she will not receive university credit for completing the course.

Can students receive university credits for MOOCs?

  • Universities and colleges are free to decide if and how they wish to recognize MOOC courses for credit. (See edX, Coursera, and Udacity websites for details.) At McGill, professors may use parts of MOOCs in their on-campus credit courses as they would use any online materials, but no credits will be given for completion of an edX course.

Can you receive a certificate?

  • edX offers three certificate options, certificates of mastery, honour code certificates, and supervised exam certificates. All certificates can be received independently of one another.
  • A certificate of mastery is given to those who demonstrate subject mastery, that is, successfully complete the course requirements as per the course syllabus. Successful completion is given at the discretion of edX and the edX consortium partner. Honour code certificates are given to those who have signed an honour code course pledge. Supervised exam certificates are given to those who complete and pass an exam under third-party supervision. A fee may be charged for the certificates and the supervised exams.
  • Udacity offers four mastery certificates (levels 1-4) based on accumulated mastery points. Mastery points are given based on different levels of achievement. This is outlined in course details upon registration. At different levels of mastery, the student can gain access to an updated certificate.
  • Coursera institutions have the option to recognize students who complete the course with a certificate or statement of accomplishment. Students must check the course information page, course syllabus, course policies, or FAQs to determine if the course offers statements of completion or certificate options.

What defines a certificate of mastery?

  • edX and its consortium partners define a certificate of mastery as successfully completing course requirements with a passing grade. The definition of “course mastery” is dependent on edX and the edX consortium partner. All certificates are offered at the discretion of edX and the edX consortium partner.
  • Please see Udacity and Coursera website for certificate option details.

What types of assessment practices are used?

  • Quizzes, including multiple-choice and short-answer questions, and exams are commonly used. Depending on course options, a supervised exam may be required if a student selects a specific certificate.
  • Each platform and course employs different assessment methods. For further information on course assessment practices, please visit the specific course page and view the course details.

Is a supervised exam required?

  • No. Registering for a supervised exam is at the discretion of the student. edX only requires third-party supervised exams when students choose to register for a supervised exam certificate, if one is available.
  • edX supervised exams require students to attend a Pearson VUE testing facility. Pearson VUE has over 4000 testing facilities operating worldwide. See the Pearson VUE website to locate a test-taking facility.
  • Udacity and Coursera both offer supervised exam options

What are edX’s intellectual property regulations?

  • edX terms of service and license to users’ work are extensive. For more information, please see the edX terms of service.

How are the McGillX courses being funded?

  • All support for the development and production of McGillX courses is funded by private donations. 

What, if any, is the business model?

  • Currently, there is no standard business model for MOOCs. Coursera and Udacity have proposed revenue generation ideas; see those websites for details.
  • To date, edX only receives modest revenue from certificates. As a not-for-profit organization, “the missions of Harvard and MIT are to provide access to learning and education and improve the general quality of life and humankind. [edX] is simply a continuation of that mission” (Agarwal, A. 2013).

Additional questions?

  • Additional edX FAQs and information can be found on the edX website.
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