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Originated to help academic institutions innovate pedagogical models, MOOCs are taking different routes, some of them marked by public policies, others by market strategies. Questioning the MOOC phenomenon according only to pedagogies and learning theories means, however, underestimating their impact on the evolution of educational systems. This article intends to define a research agenda into the social impact of MOOCs, in order to reflect on changes in educational policies, on academic culture, and on learning measurement. For this reason we suggest focusing attention on three features of MOOC phenomenology: MOOCs as a social movement - an active policy initiative to promote greater democratization of education; MOOCs as a medium and a cultural artifact (mediated texts, videos, interface, platform functionalities) able to convey learning to distant learners; and, lastly, MOOCs as a measurement - in other words as instrumentation (i.e. learning statements, analytics, algorithms, visualizion tools, dashboards etc.) that allow you to monitor, analyze and optimize the effectiveness of online teaching and learning. We also highlight their limits in these regards.
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