MOOC stands for Massive Open Online Course, a bit of a mouthful and not a particularly nice word, but something that will be a very important component of the education landscape in the future. Students, teachers and parents should be watching developments here very closely.
In translation: teaching over the internet. Courses covering everything from maths to art and using all the latest multimedia and web-based technology.
From the Khan Academy to a multitude of universities and colleges putting courses online (often free), things are taking off. In the USA, prestigious institutions like Stanford, Harvard and MIT have blazed the trail but there are many more, all over the world.
Open Culture has a list of 700 free online courses. Everything from Ancient Greek History at Yale with Donald Kagan to Reading Marx’s Capital by David Harvey at City University of New York.
Also check out Coursera - "Take the world's best courses, online, for free".
The modern web environment is an increasingly rich one but there are many challenges ahead of a non-technical nature. These will include how grading and certification will work. To see proper recognition of online qualifications we will need to ensure some sort of reliable quality standard and a way to properly compare grades from very different institutions, perhaps across continents.
In the future, the hope is that the cost of education will fall significantly and quality rise. Great teachers will no longer be available to only a privileged few but can, if allowed, reach huge (massive online) audiences: education can be interesting and exciting in the right hands.
This will all take some time to shake out and there are many vested interests that might work to obstruct online education. Like with a lot of things the internet touches, some wrenching change is on the horizon.