Massive open online courses (MOOCs) have often been described as "revolutionizing" or "disrupting" traditional higher education during the past couple of years as interest in their potential has surged.
The common vision: Nimble Internet startups were destined to sweep through academia, the last walled garden, just as they had in the worldwide media markets years earlier.
In retrospect, the hyperbole and excitement around MOOCs was understandable. While "online education" -- broadly defined as a class delivered in part or whole across a computer network -- goes back decades, the scale of MOOCs, in which a single course can attract a quarter-million students, was new and breathtaking.
Most histories of MOOCs start with the 2008 course "Connectivism and Connective Knowledge," created by George Siemens, then an associate director for research and development with the Learning Technologies Center at the University of Manitoba, and Stephen Downes, an online learning and new media designer and commentator.