Abstract One of the striking differences between massive open online courses (MOOCs) and previous innovations in the education technology field is the unprecedented interest and involvement of the general public. As MOOCs address pressing problems in higher education and the broader educational practice, awareness of the general public debate around MOOCs is essential. Understanding the public discourse around MOOCs can provide insights into important social and public problems, thus enabling the MOOC research community to better focus their research endeavors. While there have been some reports looking at the state of the MOOC-related research, the analysis of the public debate surrounding MOOCs is still largely missing.
In this paper, we present the results of a study that looked at the content of the public discourse related to MOOCs. We identified the most important themes and topics in MOOC-related mainstream news reports. Our results indicate that coverage of MOOCs in public media is rapidly decreasing: by the middle of 2014, it decreased by almost 50% from the highest activity during 2013. In addition, the focus of those discussions is also changing. While the majority of discussions during 2012 and 2013 were focused on MOOC providers, the announcements of their partnerships, and million dollar investments, the current focus of MOOC discourse seems to be moving toward more productive topics focused on the overall position of MOOCs in the global educational landscape. Among different topics that this study discovered, government-related issues and the use of data and analytics are some of the topics that seem to be growing in popularity during the first half of 2014.