In the past few years, learners around the globe have witnessed a steady increase in the number of online courses, MOOC providers, and university partners. Course topics have expanded to include local expertise aimed at region-specific challenges, such as the ones rising in post-conflict Colombia. MOOC instructors and institutions have also seen a boom of their learner base, reaching farther corners of the world, and in some cases creating tight-knit learning communities.
A MOOC platform for Ibero-American learners
MiríadaX was born in early 2013 as a digital learning initiative of Universia — the largest academic collaboration network of Ibero-America (Spain and Latin America) — and financially supported by Banco Santander and the Learning Services division of Telefónica. Starting with 58 courses and 188,802 enrollments, MiríadaX was envisioned as the first MOOC platform for Spanish speaking learners.
As evidence of the positive reception from the Ibero-American public, MiríadaX’s numbers soared over the years. In 2017, there are 316 courses available from 90 university partners in Miriada X platform. These courses have received over four million enrollments. The institutions with the most courses are Universidad Politécnica de Madrid with 41 courses, and Universidad de Navarra with 20 courses.
Most courses and tools are offered in Spanish or Portuguese, including lectures, discussion forums, quizzes, and peer reviewed assignments. For this reason, the platform reduces the language friction between instructors, students, and community, and allows smoother interactions in the massive digital learning format.
Badges, achievements, and karma: a gamified learning experience
MiríadaX’s courses combine the rigorous nature of university curriculum design along with digital learning techniques, some of which are not used on other MOOC platforms. A special mention goes to the gamified environment of the platform, where users can see progress bars and earn badges by completing course materials and engaging in discussions. Students can also earn free participation badges or paid completion certificates at the end of the course.
Moreover, MiríadaX rewards student participation by using a “karma” points system. Students can collaborate actively in the course development beyond the well known discussion forums: they can contribute as content writers in the course wikis, blogs, and FAQs. More impactful contributions mean more karma points, which mean more prestige within the community and a better position in the “expert” ranking system.
The lecture user interface aims for simplicity and ease of use, separating each content unit in a module. Lecture videos are hosted on third-party web services such as Youtube or Vimeo.
The courses are session-based, which ensures all the students follow the suggested schedule to complete assignments. It also ensures they interact with other learners along the way. After the session ends, the course material remains open to consultations.
Free badges and certificates available
In keeping with MiríadaX’s philosophy, courses and resources are offered without restrictions — not even economical restrictions. Lectures, forums, quizzes, and peer-reviewed assignments are open to everyone, and a free participation certificate is offered upon completing a course. The free certificate is presented as a shareable badge and can be also downloaded as a PDF diploma — without including the university logo or instructor signatures. The paid certificate option can be purchased for around 40€ and is presented in the form of a shareable web interface or downloadable PDF diploma.
Paid certificates contain more information about student participation in the course, such as grades percentile, evidence of participation in the community, and course syllabus. Additionally, the paid option enables students to request references from professors via LinkedIn, as can be found in MiríadaX’s help sections.
Telefónica Educación Digital assuming full control
MiríadaX remains one of the few MOOC providers that still offers a free certificate alternative. Quizzes, assignments, and discussion forums are also offered for free. MiríadaX has been able to continue to offer free certificates thanks to the patronage of Banco Santander and Telefónica, two of the largest companies in Spain. Starting in July 2017, Telefónica took full ownership of MiríadaX, leaving out not only Banco Santander but also the Universia network. In other words, Telefónica is now solely responsible for the development of MiríadaX. In a statement to the platform’s users, MiríadaX assured users that they would not be affected in any way by this change.
Still, breaking up with the largest academic network of universities in Ibero-America can be a signal of the new direction MiríadaX might choose for the long run. The platform might follow the same path other MOOC providers have taken in recent years, increasing focus on the economic sustainability of the platform. Telefónica can also give more focus to business-oriented courses aimed to train the Ibero-American labor force, like the B2B strategies implemented by other MOOC providers.
In the short term, MiríadaX can be expected to continue growing as the main point of reference for Ibero-American learners adventuring in the MOOC world. The open nature of MiríadaX has been one of the pillars of its growth and mass adoption among Spanish and Portuguese speaking students. It is up to communities, institutions, and providers to keep the underlying open spirit of the early days of MOOCs in this shifting environment.
Orlando Trejo is an Assistant Professor at the Electronics and Circuits Department at Universidad SImón Bolívar, Venezuela. He also performs as Lead of the Spanish version of the MOOC “Learning How to Learn” at Coursera.