Main Article Content

Valentina Goglio
Fabio Nascimbeni


If we look at the short but widely analyzed history of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), it is evident that these courses, which were created and are still often acclaimed as ‘open’, have been progressively losing most of their openness. A substantial – and probably increasing – number of MOOCs are in fact not based on Open Educational Resources. Moreover, they are not continuously available for access. Recognizing that many openness declinations exist in the MOOC panorama, this article seeks to expand global knowledge about such variances by focusing on the characteristics of MOOCs in Italy. It claims that even if the Italian MOOC ecosystem has some similarities with those of other European countries, it is distinctive for two reasons: first, MOOCs produced by Italian universities seem to be more open than those in comparable countries in terms of both content licenses and accessibility; second, the Italian MOOC ecosystem seems to suffer from a rather high degree of fragmentation. By combining a literature review with a set of interviews with key stakeholders in the Italian MOOC panorama, the article provides insights on the factors and mechanisms that have generated such a particular configuration of the Italian MOOC landscape.

Article Details

Articles - General topics


Brown, M. (2018). Why Invest in MOOCs? Strategic Institutional Drivers. In D. Jansen & L. Konings (Eds.), The 2018 OpenupEd Trend Report on MOOCs (pp. 6–9). Maastricht, NL: EADTU.

Bulfin, S., Pangrazio, L., & Selwyn, N. (2014). Making ‘MOOCs’: The construction of a new digital higher education within news media discourse. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 15(5). doi: 10.19173/irrodl.v15i5.1856

Cardano, M. (2003). Tecniche di ricerca qualitativa: Percorsi di ricerca nelle scienze sociali. Roma, IT: Carocci.

Carfagna, L. ‘Luka’ (2018). Learning to share: Pedagogy, open learning, and the sharing economy. The Sociological Review, 66(2), 447–465. doi: 10.1177/0038026118758551

Castaño Muñoz, J., Punie, Y., Inamorato dos Santos, A., Mitic, M., Morais, R., & Institute for Prospective Technological Studies (2016). How are higher education institutions dealing with openness?: A survey of practices, beliefs, and strategies in five European countries. Luxembourg, LU: Publications Office. Retrieved from

Cesareni, D., Micale, F., Cosmelli, C., Fiore, F. P., & Nicolò, R. (2014). MOOCs e interazioni collaborative: L’esperienza in «Sapienza». ECPS - Educational, Cultural and Psychological Studies, 10(2014), 153–176. doi: 10.7358/ecps-2014-010-cesa

Cinque, M. (2015). Open Education: OER e MOOC. Universitas Quaderni, 6(30), 5–26.

Cronin, C. (2017). Openness and Praxis: Exploring the Use of Open Educational Practices in Higher Education. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 18(5). doi: 10.19173/irrodl.v18i5.3096

CRUI. (2015). Massive Open On-Line Courses. Prospettive e Opportunità per l’Università italiana (No. 2a edizione). Roma: Fondazione CRUI. Retrieved from

CRUI. (2017). Progetto MOOCs Italia—Linee guida nazionali per la predisposizione di MOOCs di qualità erogati dalle Università italiane. CRUI. Retrieved from

De Notaris, D., Melchionna, T., & Reda, V. (2020). Didattica digitale: Chi, come e perché. Roma, IT: Salerno Editrice.

De Rosa, R., & Reda, V. (2013). La rivoluzione dei MOOCs: Un’analisi di policy framework su scala europea. LEA - Lingue e Letterature d’Oriente e d’Occidente, 2, 272–311.

Deimann, M. (2015). The dark side of the MOOC - A critical inquiry on their claims and realities. Current Issues in Emerging ELearning, 2(1). Retrieved from

Emanuel, E. J. (2013). Online education: MOOCs taken by educated few. Nature, 503(7476), 342–342. doi: 10.1038/503342a

Fontanin, M., & Pantò, E. (2019). I MOOCs, opportunità per la formazione di base e l’apprendimento continuo: Una storia (anche) italiana. DigItaliaweb, 1(2019), 76–99. Retrieved from

Glaser, B. (1978). Theoretical sensitivity: Advances in the methodology of grounded theory. Mill Valley, CA, US: Sociology Press.

Hansen, J. D., & Reich, J. (2015). Democratizing education? Examining access and usage patterns in massive open online courses. Science, 350(6265), 1245–1248. doi: 10.1126/science.aab3782

Havemann, L. (2020). Open in the Evening: Openings and Closures in an Ecology of Practices. In D. Conrad & P. Prinsloo (Eds.), Open(ing) Education (pp. 329–344). Leiden, NL: Brill. doi: 10.1163/9789004422988_015

Head, K. J. (2017). Disrupt this! MOOCs and the promises of technology. Lebanon, NH, US: University Press of New England.

Hodge, C., Moore, S., Lockee, B., Trust, T., & Bond, A. (2020, March 27). The Difference Between Emergency Remote Teaching and Online Learning. Retrieved from

Il Sole 24 ore. (2020). Smart Education. I MOOC delle università. Tutti i corsi online gratuiti. Milano, IT: Il Sole 24 Ore.

Kent, M., & Bennett, R. (2017). What was all that about? Peak MOOC hype and post-MOOC legacies. In Massive open online courses and higher education: What went right, what went wrong and where to next? (pp. 1–8). London, UK and New York, NY, US: Routledge.

Kerr, R., & Eradze, M. (2016). MOOCs: A multi-faceted phenomenon. Italian Journal of Educational Technology, 24(2). doi: 10.17471/2499-4324/897

Kovanović, V., Joksimović, S., Gašević, D., Siemens, G., & Hatala, M. (2015). What public media reveals about MOOCs: A systematic analysis of news reports: What public media reveals about MOOCs. British Journal of Educational Technology, 46(3), 510–527. doi: 10.1111/bjet.12277

Loeffler, E. (2021). Distinguishing types and levels of co-production: Concepts and definitions. In E. Loeffler (Ed.), Co-Production of Public Services and Outcomes (pp. 23–73). Cham, CH: Springer. doi: 10.1007/978-3-030-55509-2_2

Losh, E. (Ed.). (2017). MOOCs and Their Afterlives. Chicago, IL, US: University of Chicago Press. Retrieved from

Nascimbeni, F. (2020). Open education: OER, MOOC e pratiche didattiche aperte verso l’inclusione digitale educativa. Milano, IT: Franco Angeli. Retrieved from

Pappano, L. (2012, November 2). Massive Open Online Courses Are Multiplying at a Rapid Pace. The New York Times. Retrieved from

Pickard, L., Shah, D., & De Simone, J. J. (2018). Mapping Microcredentials Across MOOC Platforms. Proceedings of Learning with MOOCS 2018, 17–21. Madrid, SP: IEEE.

Pozzi, F., & Conole, G. (2014). Quale futuro per i MOOC in Italia? Italian Journal of Educational Technology, 22(3). doi: 10.17471/2499-4324/187

Reda, V., & Kerr, R. (2020, March 31). Moocs have helped Italy keep teaching during the pandemic | Times Higher Education (THE). Retrieved from

Reich, J., & Ruipérez-Valiente, J. A. (2019). The MOOC pivot. Science, 363(6423), 130–131. doi: 10.1126/science.aav7958

Shah, D. (2013, December 22). MOOCs in 2013: Breaking down the numbers - EdSurge News. Retrieved from

Shah, D. (2018, December 17). EdX puts up a paywall for graded assignments. Retrieved from

Shah, D. (2019, January 7). Year of MOOC-based degrees: A review of MOOC stats and trends in 2018 — Class Central [Report]. Retrieved from

Shah, D. (2020a, August 17). By the Numbers: MOOCs During the Pandemic. Retrieved from

Shah, D. (2020b, November 30). By The Numbers: MOOCs in 2020 — Class Central [Class Central]. Retrieved from

Siemens, G. (2013). Massive open online courses: Innovation in education? In R. McGreal, W. Kinuthia, & S. Marshall (Eds.), Open Educational Resources: Innovation, Research and Practice (pp. 5–15). Vancouver, CA, US: Commonwealth of Learning and Athabasca University. Retrieved from

Stracke, C. M., Downes, S., Conole, G., Burgos, D., & Nascimbeni, F. (2019). Are MOOCs Open Educational Resources? A literature review on history, definitions and typologies of OER and MOOCs. Open Praxis, 11(4), 331. doi: 10.5944/openpraxis.11.4.1010

Tammaro, A. M., Ciancio, L., De Rosa, R., Pantò, E., & Nascimbeni, F. (2017). Digital libraries in open education: The Italy case. In C. Grana, & L. Baraldi (Eds.), Digital Libraries and Archives: 13th Italian Research Conference on Digital Libraries. Modena, IT: IRCDL.

UNESCO. (2017, July 20). Open Educational Resources (OER). Retrieved from

UNESCO. (2019, October 8). Draft Recommendation on Open Educational Resources—UNESCO Digital Library. UNESCO. Retrieved from

Weller, M. (2015). MOOCs and the Silicon Valley narrative. Journal of Interactive Media in Education, 2015(1), Art. 5. doi: 10.5334/

Wiley, D. (2015). The MOOC Misstep and the Open Education Infrastructure. In C. J. Bonk, M. M. Lee, T. C. Reeves, & T. H. Reynolds (Eds.), MOOCs and Open Education Around the World (1st ed., pp. 3–11). London, UK: Routledge. doi: 10.4324/9781315751108-2

Zawacki-Richter, O., Bozkurt, A., Alturki, U., & Aldraiweesh, A. (2018). What Research Says About MOOCs – An Explorative Content Analysis. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 19(1). doi: 10.19173/irrodl.v19i1.3356

Zuboff, S. (2019). The age of surveillance capitalism: The fight for a human future at the new frontier of power (First edition). New York, NY, US: PublicAffairs.