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The rapid rise of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) has hit the educational landscape with much impact causing heated debates, a renewed interest in educational technology and a considerable political activism. With the often cited headline “The Year of the MOOC” (Pappano, 2012), MOOCs have been portrayed as a much needed instrument to satisfy the growing demand for education. However, there have also a lot of amazement by distance education specialists (Daniel, 2012) and the general public, especially after reports revealed very high dropout rates (Liyanagunawardena, Parslow, & Williams, 2014). It seems that the MOOC hype has suddenly come to an end (Strauss, 2013) – or at least has cooled down.
Whereas opinion pieces have largely influenced the MOOC debate, scientific research is only beginning to keep up with the pace, focussing mostly on small, isolated studies and issue of success and failure from a learners' perspective (e.g. Breslow u. a., 2013). Yet, MOOCs are much more than video-based lectures from world class universities provided globally for free. They are a key representative for the ongoing transformation triggered by digital technologies.
Still, there is much to learn from the MOOC debate and a thorough analysis would disclose specific patterns and untangle complex arguments. In this regard, Kovanovic´ and collegues (2015) conducted a systematic analysis of news reports identifying changed perspectives.
Building on this recent research to grasp the way MOOCs are discussed, the paper suggests an argumentation analysis using major policy reports as its source. Drawing on European and US contexts, the analysis attempts to locate different positions, rhethoric figures and methaphors which shape the way MOOCs are perceived and handled.