As early as the 1970's, educators have been advocating for 'open' education and the use of computer technology as a reform tool. Ivan Illich described "decentralized learning webs" that would create students that were more involved with and connected to the learning process.

In the Fall of 2002, MIT OpenCourseWare was announced. Supported by major gifts, donations and corporate underwriting, Massachusetts Institute of Technology published many of their undergraduate and graduate level resources online, and made them accessible and (mostly) free to anyone. They partnered with Wiley who set up a distribution network supported voluntarily by interested educational partners. The materials came to be referred to as Open Educational Resources. Universities around the globe were inspired to follow suit. The OpenCourseWare Consortium was founded in 2005, In 2007, OER Commons was launched by ISKME, a research institute that promote innovation in open education. OER Commons would help standardize, share and promote the resources, as well as design a tool to align OER with Common Core Standards.

The first MOOC course (which preceded the term) may have been David Wiley's course on open education, taught through Utah State University in 2007. Over 50 students from eight countries participated. Wiley was a pioneer in open education, and developed a licensing system for sharing intellectual content prior to the advent of Creative commons licensing.

Bryan Alexander, Dave Cormier, Stephen Downes and George Siemens


August 2007
Open Education graduate course taught by Wiley at Utah State University
  • 50 students
  • 8 countries represented
Fall 2008
Open online course CCK08 (Connectivism and Connective Knowledge) offered by Siemens and Downes.
  • 25 paying students from the University of Manitoba
  • approximately 2,200 additional participants, free of charge
  • Labeled "MOOC" by Cormier and Alexander
Social Media and Open Education created by Alec Couros

Composing Free and Open Education Resources - The School of Art Education, University of Art and Design, Helsinki
September 2010
PLENK2010 - Personal Learning Environments Networks and Knowledge
  • Created by Downes, sponsored by the Technology Enhanced Knowledge Research Institute at Athabasca University (Alberta Canada)
Fall 2010
DS106 - Digital Storytelling
  • Created by Jim Groom at University of Mary Washington
  • Ongoing
Codecamy offers free programming classes
  • Founded by former Columbia University students Zach Sims and Ryan Bubinski
  • Headquartered in New York
  • Funded by investors
February 2012
Udacity founded by Sebastian Thrun
  • Outgrowth of free computer classes taught at Stanford University
  • Courses facilitated/taught, created by Udacity
  • Math, computer and science courses
  • Certificates of completion are free
  • Final exam given for a fee
  • For-profit funded through venture capital
  • Planned collaborators for 2013 include Google, Microsoft and Wolfram Research
April 2012
Coursera launched in Mountain View California
  • Partners with schools to provide content
  • Free courses, with charges for services, such as completion certificates, tutoring, testing/evaluation
  • Started with 100+ courses, 35 universities
  • University of Washington offering credit when extra requirements are met
  • For profit, funded through venture capital
Fall 2012
edX founded as MITx as a natural outgrowth of MIT's OpenCourseWare
  • Seven courses, created for online delivery
  • Harvard, MIT and Berkeley
  • University of Texas joined in October 2012
  • Certificates, free in the fall, will be awarded for a fee in the future
  • Will be used to research how technology can transform learning
  • Not-for-profit; funds donated by participating universities
Fall 2012
Instructure, new LMS, launched Canvas Network
  • Instructure previously used as platform for Hybrid Pedagogy ("The MOOC MOOC")
  • Registration open (as of October 31) for January courses
  • 12 universities partnering, including Brown and the University of Washington
  • David Wiley teaching "Introduction to Openness in Education"
  • Stan Lee a lecturer for "Gender Through Comic Books"
  • Run on Canvas by university staff

Other Resources

The Big Three, at a glance from the New York Times