Massive open online courses (MOOCs) offer learners across the globe unprecedented access to education. Through sophisticated e-learning technologies and web approaches, MOOCs attract massive scale participation and global interest. Some commercial ventures place social equality at the heart of their missions, claiming to empower communities by making education accessible and affordable. In reality, the socio-ethical impact of MOOCs has not been investigated fully, so it is not clear whether they meet these aspirations.
The aim of this study was to conduct a systematic literature review to examine the socio-ethical dimensions of MOOCs. The results showed a paucity of literature specifically addressing the subject in question, although there was evidence of many innovative approaches underway to examine new paradigms within learning analytics and online study behaviour that are emerging because of MOOCs. A small number of papers explored new pedagogic approaches such as conducting peer assessment on a massive scale, and how learning groups connect and establish on the open web.
To conclude, this paper begins to provide a framework on which to consider the socio-ethical dimensions of MOOCs. There is a need for good quality research to provide an evidence-base to ensure MOOCs deliver a socially equitable learning experience.
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