Open Online Courses and the Democratization of Knowledge for Vulnerable Groups

Elena Barcena
Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia (UNED)

Timothy Read
Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia (UNED)

Monica Vilhelm
Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia (UNED)


This article builds on a body of literature (e.g., Daniel, 2012; Portmess, 2013; O’Mahony & Salmon, 2014) where the potential of MOOCs for the democratization of knowledge has been claimed. The authors highlight four key characteristics that have been seen to be essential in the design, development and deployment of open online courses for vulnerable groups, in order to maximise student participation, interaction, and learning in such educational scenarios. These characteristics are instructional design for social inclusion, three degrees of accessibility, inclusive language, and Activeness. They will be analysed from a practical and experiential perspective in the context of a Language MOOC (massive open online course) developed by the authors’ research group, although they are relevant for any other type of open online course. They will be argued to facilitate any future access to information in general, once the course has finished, and as such, represent a catalyst for the democratization of knowledge.

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