A survey on the pedagogical features of language massive open online courses

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Purpose: This paper examines the pedagogical features of massive open online courses (MOOCs) for language learning–known as language MOOCs. The mainstream pedagogy of MOOCs typically involves the provision of short videos and reading materials for self-study; discussion forums, mostly for peer-to-peer interaction on course content; and machine-graded quizzes for self-assessment. For language learning, which has been conventionally understood as skill development, the pedagogical features of relevant MOOCs have yet to be comprehensively surveyed. Design/methodology/approach: This study surveyed a total of 123 language MOOCs from the major MOOC platforms. The pedagogical features shown in these courses were identified and categorised according to the types of course materials and learning activities as well as the participation of learners and instructors. Findings: English was the most common language taught in the courses. Over 80% of the courses took not more than six hours to complete. Most of these courses followed the typical approach of xMOOC delivery, with video watching, reading and auto-graded assessment being the most common learning activities. Less than half of the courses included discussion as part of learning, and instructors were involved in less than 30% of the discussion. Originality/value: The findings show that, despite the technological advances in course delivery, current language MOOCs do not differ substantially from conventional distance language learning. Yet, the utilisation of computer-assisted language learning technology and the massive student base of MOOCs for creating a virtual social community are opportunities for developing learners' language proficiency on this learning environment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)116-128
Number of pages13
JournalAsian Association of Open Universities Journal
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 21 May 2021


  • Language learning
  • MOOCs
  • Massive open online courses
  • Pedagogical features


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