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Posted by on Jul 16, 2015 in E-learning, Educational Technologies, MOOCs | 6 comments

MOOC Types: The xMOOC, cMOOC and rMOOC

MOOC Types: The xMOOC, cMOOC and rMOOC

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) in general, are online courses that are free for any individual to register. Allow me to unpack each word. “Massive” implies that the courses can host a large number of participants. A large number, I would assume would be any number within the thousands. Therefore, the word “massive” represents the courses capacity potential. “Open” implies that anyone who wishes to take the course, can register and partake in the course, irrespective of their background knowledge, current qualifications or financial status. “Online” implies that the course is internet based, and thus making internet access a key pre-requisite. “Course” implies that the objective of this entity is that learning occurs during the process of conducting the embedded learning activities. Often, when individuals argue against or for MOOCs, they argue from a very limited perspective which pits MOOCs against the traditional ways of teaching and learning delivery. They do not take into consideration the different types of MOOCs and the different purposes they serve. I have identified the following types of MOOCs, and if anyone can add to the list please share. The ‘MOOC’ was coined by David Cormier. The cMOOC xMOOC were coined by  Stephen Downes.


The ‘x’ stands for eXtended or the eXtension of the core curriculum. The xMOOC is an expert centered MOOC, in which this expert directs the knowledge to be gained. The difference between this type of MOOC and a traditional online course is that, this is Massive and it is Open. The xMOOC is based on the traditional classroom structure. The role of the course instructor (expert) is to create and coordinate the curriculum. He/she also sets the outcomes of the course from the onset. Often, the course involves lecture videos, pre-set and computer marked assignments, and automated system feedback. The learner is responsible for completing the set tasks as directed by the instructor, in the required time. xMOOC have a strict set duration, and at the completion of the course, a certificate or badge is issued indicating the pass mark. The aim of the xMOOC is to efficiently deliver content to larger audiences.


The ‘c’ stands for Connectivist. The cMOOC is a MOOC that focuses on networking and knowledge generation by participants. By extension this type of MOOC pushes the boundaries of Connectivism. It is learner-centered in that the learner chooses what they wish to learn.  There is no formal curriculum or the traditional learning management system is replaced by Web 2.0 tools such as blogs, wikis and social networking platforms. Learning is collaborative and knowledge is created through the interactivity amongst learners. However, to date most cMOOCs still provide an expert who provides nodes of content, thus sometimes shaping the discussions around the phenomena under investigation. The role of the student is both teacher and learner, who learns and produces learning content for open consumption. The learners reflect on contributions and self-assess their learning paths. cMOOCs are driven by the passion of the learners and the course goals are determine by the community of learners. The aim of the cMOOC is enhance learning through fostering connections and collaborations amongst learners.


Born, from the cMOOC, the rMOOC is inspired from the work of Dave Cormier on Rhizomatic Learning. In this case the ‘r’ stands for rhizomatic. The term was first coined within Dave’s rhizomatic course Rhizo14 by a participant in 2014. Although still not a popular term (even on Google), I foresee the term gaining momentum as the Rhizo-community grows and as MOOCs take different forms. Unlike the Connectivist cMOOC, the rMOOC is based on Deleuze and Guattari’s philosophy of the rhizome. In an rMOOC, the learning community is curriculum and the authority, and the main goal is knowledge creation/discovery through sharing and interaction. An rMOOC is well suited for creating/discovering knowledge on little known phenomena, for example knowledge on theorizing and understanding Rhizomatic Learning itself. There is no instructor in an rMOOC, but rather a convener who is also seeking to understand and/or create knowledge on the themes set in the course. The convener sets the themes, however participants can deviate from the original themes in the way they see fit. This encourages innovative thinking, and unexpected but valid perspectives on the subject matter. The convenor joins in the learning process and arranges synchronous discussion sessions when necessary. The learner’s role is to co-construct knowledge based on the themes or agreed upon topic through sharing and discussion of blog posts and other online sources. In essence, rMOOCs are less guided than cMOOCs, and could be considered a mere extension of what individuals do when they seek understanding of a phenomena or solutions to a problem through searching the internet. Furthermore, the learning outcomes are only realized at the end of the learning process (Learning Incomes).


In conclusion, it is evident that there is a noticeable distinction between the xMOOC and the cMOOC. The thin line lies between the cMOOC and the rMOOC. The reason for the differences exists within the learning philosophies followed, and one would need a full session to make a clear distinction between connectivism and rhizomatic learning. It would be interesting to hear the various perspectives on the emergence of the rMOOC.




  1. Very informative. Thank you Fred for lightening especially rMOOCs. Now I know even types of MOOCs that I did not know…

  2. As I continue to think more about rMOOCs vs cMOOCs, rMOOCs have no completion goals, e.g. The goal is not to complete the entire course, but to attain the knowlegde one seeks. It is also widely accepted that lurkers are also learners within rMOOCs and therefore lurkers are accepted as participants.

  3. A very clear explanation. For the next MOOCs course you should start with these explanations.
    I noticed that there are differences between MOOCs but now I know the differences.
    Thanks for sharing, Frederick

    • Thanks Wilma. I agree with you, it makes sense to help people understand the type of MOOC they are partaking in before they begin.

  4. It is my personal opinion that it should be one’s goal to complete a MOOC’s course.
    For example, the topics for this course link to each other. Certain ideas/ concepts were clarified when I continued with the different topics. Some ideas/ facts/ concepts were reinforced while continuing with this course.


  1. Technologies, Taxonomies, and Acronyms Oh My! : A MOOC-ish Taxonomy  | She's So Heavy - […] Fred Mud posted on the xMOOC, cMOOC, and the rMOOC. With the rMOOC being the rhizo MOOC citing Dave…

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