North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, went on national television on Thursday to announce that North Korea had successfully launched two MOOCs (massive open online courses). The first is called: ‘How to build a nuclear bomb’, and the second ‘How to build an intercontinental missile’.

President Obama issued a statement immediately denouncing North Korea’s action as ‘highly provocative,’ and it is expected that the U.N. Security Council will strongly condemn the launch, with even China supporting the motion.

Stephen Downes, a Canadian expert on MOOCs, noted that the North Koreans are using long-wave radio, a less advanced technology than North American Internet-based MOOCs, as their delivery technology. ‘Fortunately, outside the Korean peninsular, there aren’t too many who can speak Korean, and even fewer these days with long-wave radio. Nevertheless’, said Downes, ‘if these MOOCs get into the wrong hands, they could cause enormous damage.’

Anant Agrawal,an engineering professor at MIT and the the Director of edX, a MOOC program being developed jointly by MIT and Harvard, said they are watching the development closely. ‘The problem is,’ he said, ‘that we are having difficulty finding old long-wave radio receivers, and will probably have to build one ourselves. Then we can study the North Korean MOOCs in more detail.’

Tony Bates, the Canadian director of CMD (Campaign for MOOC Disarmament), said this is yet another reason for a global MOOC non-proliferation treaty. ‘It’s such a simple technology, anyone with a video camera and a radio or a computer and the Internet, can build one,’ he said. ‘North Korea’s action is insignificant compared to the enormous damage being done to North American universities by our own MOOCs.’

Meanwhile, Daphne Koller of Coursera, the largest MOOC organization in the USA, announced that Coursera will be taking legal action to sue the North Korean government for breach of copyright. ‘Goddammit’, she said’ MOOCs are as American as apple pie. Coursera invented them, and we will take the North Koreans for every won we can get.’ Downes though doubts whether they will be successful. ‘The claim is highly dubious,’ he said.’ ‘There is strong evidence that they were invented in Canada and even if Coursera wins in an American court – which is highly likely – they will have enormous trouble getting the money out of North Korea.’ Nevertheless, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation confirmed that is about to offer $10 million towards Coursera’s legal fund.

Watch this space for further news.


  1. It’s OK everybody. The CIA has analysed the North Korean MOOCs, and they have classified them as “cMOOCS” – meaning that no one can make sense of the chaos. Therefore, someone building an intercontinental missile or a nuclear bomb after completing either MOOC is highly unlikely.

    The CIA adds, however, that if the regime were to convert the MOOCs to “xMOOCs”, this would be considered a provocation warranting “serious consequences”. The latest security assessment also rates this eventuation as highly unlikely, as it is widely known that Kim Jong-un fears France making a speech at the UN Secuirty Council.

  2. Well, you simply do not need MOOCs to find a solution on how to build a ‘How to build a nuclear bomb’ or ‘How to build an intercontinental missile’. I see this simply as a provocation and a smirk towards the MOOC hype being very Western driven at this point in time (when thinking about the xMOOCs).
    The thing that gets me worried is how Coursera actually gets it into their head to claim copyright on something that is open learning/education! That is immediately against the spirit in which MOOCs started and yes, it is a Canadian concept, even the theory around it is Canadian…. argh.


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