This article discusses the differences between MOOCs and SPOCs, xMOOCs and cMOOCs, and SMOCs and SSOCs, and then proposes a framework for improving learner motivation and selecting the right teachers in these events.

Kaplan, A. and Haenlein, M. (2016) ‘Higher education and the digital revolution: About MOOCs, SPOCs, social media, and the Cookie Monster’, Business Horizons, vol. 59, pp. 441-450 [Online]. DOI: 10.1016/j.bushor.2016.03.008.


  1. Course objective
  2. Course content
    1. History of distance learning
    2. Definition and classification
  3. Target audience
    1. Student population
    2. Teaching staff
  4. Learning goals
    1. Benefits
    2. Quality assurance
  5. Evaluation criteria
    1. Student assessment
    2. Return on investment (ROI)
  6. Digital and social media use policy
  7. Concluding information


Categorized by size, openness, time lag in communication, and pedagogy

The difference between a MOOC (massive open online course) and SPOC (small private online course) is mostly one of size. The relative sizes affect openness: the “massive” size of a MOOC allows for open enrollment, whereas the smaller size of a SPOC requires a formal and possibly competitive application process.

Most MOOCs are asynchronous, which best accommodates the “massive” number of learners. When MOOCs and SPOCs are synchronous, they are called SMOCs (synchronous massive online courses) or SSOCs (synchronous small online courses).

MOOCs also can be categorized by underlying pedagogical approach:

Improving learner motivation and selecting the right teachers

MOOCs and SPOCs require a high level of motivation on the part of the learner. To improve learner motivation, the authors propose a “5C” framework, which identifies 5 elements that can improve learner motivation in a MOOC or SPOC, and 5 characteristics that make for the best teacher in these types of environments.

Kaplan and Haenlein's 5C framework

5C frameworks (Kaplan and Haenlein, 2016, p. 445)

 When designing a MOOC or SPOC, improve learner motivation by:

When selecting a person to lead the MOOC or SPOC, look for a person who is:

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