Considerations for Developing an Activist Mindset in MOOCs

When we think about developing MOOCs within an activist framework, we have to consider differences between learning face-to-face, online, or in blended environments. There are real differences and concerns to think about, and in this module we offer three aspects to consider: Access, Community Building, and Content. Each section includes questions and resources to help you think through some of the concerns posed by developing a MOOC within an activist framework.


A colorful open sign made from license plates.
Photo by James Sutton on Unsplash

Just as in other physical spaces, learning in online spaces must address issues of access. When developing a MOOC within an activist framework, this is particularly important. We see at least two areas of concern to consider: 1) accessibility of resources and 2) accessibility to diverse audiences.

Accessibility of Resources

Questions to Reflect on:

  • When creating a MOOC within an activist framework, what do you want to affirm with your choice of resources?
  • What proportion of resources used in a MOOC ought to be open access?
  • Should closed resources, such as those behind paywalls, even be used in a MOOC?

Resources to Consider:

Accessibility to Diverse Audiences

Questions to Reflect on:

  • What audience(s) do you want to reach with your MOOC?
  • How does the design of your course enable a diverse audience to access your MOOC?
  • How will you assess whether your MOOC is actually accessible?

Resources to consider:

  • Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) from the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C)
  •, the U.S. General Service Administration Government-wide IT Accessibility Program
  • WebAIM from the Center for Persons with Disabilities at Utah State University
  •, Caption, Subtitle and Translate Video
  • ATbar, open-source, cross-browser toolbar to help users customise the way they view and interact with web pages

Community Building

Five arms meeting fists in solidarity over a worktable. The arms vary in skin tone and accessory.
Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

How can we build community across the constraints of time and space that are characteristic of distance learning? What does a digital course community within an activist framework look like? The following questions and resources are here to help you consider and  create a digital community that is rooted in critical pedagogy. From construction to operation, this module will help you decrease both environmental and pedagogical obstacles to learning.

A Caring Community

Questions to Reflect On:

  • How do you unify dispersed learning communities when using a single digital platform?
  • How can you develop a pedagogy of care across the digital divide?
  • What might a pedagogy of hospitality offer to distance learners seeking community?

Resources to Consider

A Civil Community

Questions to Reflect On:

  • How can we ensure that our digital course community operates under standards of mutual respect?
  • What if collaboration is the only model we adopt when creating guidelines that govern our shared digital community?
  • How does co-creation encourage activism and innovation within and beyond our courses?

Resources to Consider


A diverse group of adults in discussion in front of a wall of art work.
Photo by Antenna on Unsplash

Incorporating critique into a curriculum is essential to adopting a critical pedagogical approach. This section explores two strategies that help students to develop an activist mindset through: 1) problem-posing education as a model of process-centered learning 2) rivaling as a mode of critical thinking in proto-public spaces.

Problem Posing Education

Questions to Reflect on:

  • What are alternatives to the banking model of education [see Freire]?
  • How do we encourage students to think critically about the institutions and learning communities in which they find themselves working, including MOOCs and blended courses?
  • How can we guide students toward creative methods of problem solving?


Proto-public Spaces

Questions to Reflect on:

  • How can discussion in a MOOC be improved by incorporating a rivaling model?
  • How does constructing a proto-public space in a MOOC encourage students to develop an activist mindset?
  • In what ways is the interdisciplinary nature of the rivialing method beneficial for MOOC adaptation?


Additional Resources

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