The first MOOCs

Posted on: January 31, 2013

The term MOOC is an acronym that refers to Massive Open Online Courses.  Though the idea has been around for many years, this type of learning style has recently begun to gain popularity on a national level.  According to Inside Higher Education, 1.5 million people have registered for MOOCs offered by large universities including Stanford, MIT and Harvard Universities, though at this point these courses generally do not result in course credit or credentials (Inside Higher Education, June 11, 2012).  Although their future is nebulous, MOOCs are clearly gaining notoriety and popularity among the general population.  So where did this idea first evolve?  Read the excerpt below from Burnie Luskin, President of Mind Extension University(MEU).  JIU as we know it today evolved from MEU and the history is fascinating!  A full 20 years before they earned the popularity they see today, MOOCs were the brainchild of Glenn Jones.

“During the mid 1990’s at Jones Education Networks, we developed the precursor of the MOOC while I was president of Mind Extension University (MEU), a cable and satellite network owned and chaired by cable legend Glenn Jones. In the ‘90s we got flack about the MEU name because it was seen as too avant-garde. Today, the name Mind Extension University would not be considered “far out” and might even be thought of as conservative. At MEU we were criticized for “MOOC-ing” a history course offered by then Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich. Offering this history program as a course to thousands created a firestorm of controversy and I had to affirm our first amendment rights and Glenn Jones was called to testify before Congress.

It was a political tempest in a teapot, but it was a widely offered quite successful MOOC type program, among the other similar programs offered through Mind Extension University. Interestingly, MEU eventually became Knowledge TV, was acquired to become the Discovery Health Network and is now OWN, with Oprah Winfrey as CEO. I mention this because the migration of this type of program is significant and takes time to evolve.

At MEU, we also set up an education center offering and making partnerships with colleges and universities to provide backroom services including marketing, fees management, production services, record keeping and distribution for those that wanted to partner with us. Some of the distinguished MEU partners offering programs, seminars and courses, included George Washington University, The University of Delaware, Regis University, Seattle Community Colleges, California State University at Domguize Hills, and many more. The MEU offerings were diverse, awarding certificates, degree credit for courses, personal development programs, aggregated credit records and more. MEU was a precursor MOOC without portfolio and it also lead to the establishment of Jones International University, the first fully online regionally accredited university (Psychology Today, July 23, 2012).”