Are platforms all the same?


Several major countries have their own MOOC platforms. Are they all the same?

My approach is to select a few representative MOOC platforms and review their structure. For each platform I chose a random course to review how the course design and platform design worked together.


Framework used

I reviewed three major areas: social relationship, epistemological beliefs and temporal perceptions.

Social relationship: teacher student power

There is one indication of power of teacher. In Chinese culture, teachers are usually seen as sage on the stage. Writing down what the sage says in the notes becomes a common learning practice. Therefore XuetangX (a Chinese MOOC platform) has a specific feature for students to share their study notes.

In terms of power of students, I used two indicators: is there an option for students to provide feedback to teachers? Are there venues to students to show their identities? Spanish language MiriadaX designed a course rating and review bottom. Two European platforms (FutureLearn and iversity) and one US platform (NovoEd) offer students to present their personal

Social relationship – student-to-student interaction

How collaborative learning is perceived? There are a few things to check on this dimension: is it possible to have peer review each other academically? Provide informal feedback such as likes and comments? Contact and connect each other directly? And how group work is reflected in the platform design?

The strongest platform for peer interaction is NovoEd of USA. The China XuetangX and German iversity are weakest in peer-to-peer collaboration.


Epistemological beliefs

In terms of what constitutes learning, FutureLearn platform demonstrates a very unique approach. When most other platforms offer only discussion forum, FutureLearn courses have discussion questions designed and embedded in each course design. It reflects a very UK approach when it comes to learning – the importance of guided debate.

Temporal perceptions

Is time to be managed? Should students monitor their progress? Both FutureLearn (UK) and NovoEd(US) offer students progress visualization tool so students can ‘see’ as their own learning journey towards set goals.


MOOC has been a global phenomenon, but how each country’s platform responded to it is different. The differences of how each platform is conceived and designed reflect how each assumes a ‘normal’ way of teaching and learning. We can better understand better how one culture of learning is by reviewing how one school of teaching is revealed online.

Speece (2012) suggested that ‘student who have particular learning styles are unlikely to choose a mode which does not fit their styles well’. Does it mean a German MOOC platform would accommodate German students best? And does it imply there will not be a truly global platform for all? Do culture shape platforms and platforms have no influence on learning and teaching culture? There are outstanding questions in need of further investigation.


  1. 12 March 2015. Definition Massive Open Online Courses. OpenupED website. Retrieved on 6 October 2016 via

  1. Parrish, P. & Linder-VanBerschot, J. A. (2010). Cultural Dimensions of Learning: Addressing the Challenges of Multicultural Instruction. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, retrieved from
  2. Salili, F., & Hoosain, R. (2007), Culture, motivation, and learning: A multicultural perspective. Charlotte, NC. Information Age Publishing.
  3. Speece, M. (2012). Learning Style, Culture and Delivery Mode in Online Distance Education. US-China Education Review, retrieved from

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