MOOCs are coming! – notes from the UB Forum Brussels

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Rapporteur Notes – WORKSHOP 4.2: MASSIVE OPEN ONLINE COURSES (MOOC) – Challenges and opportunities

5th University-Business Forum, Brussels
Hosted by the European Commission, 4th – 5th June, 2013

Preamble
MOOCs have received a lot of attention lately and are increasingly the subject of interest and discussion from a growing number of higher education institutions across the globe. However, the development of MOOCs is a multi-faceted issue that calls for analysis from multiple perspectives (users, platforms, companies, HEI etc.). This session will bring together some key players from Europe and the United States involved in the development of MOOCS and provide an invaluable opportunity for open and frank debate as to the potential advantages, disadvantages and challenges that MOOCs represent.

Speakers

Moderator: Mr Michael Gaebel, Head of the Higher Education Policy Unit, European

  • Professor Daphne Koller – Stanford University – Cofounder COURSERA, (via video link)
  • Mr Simon Nelson, CEO of Future Learn
  • Professor Karl Aberer Vice-President for Information Systems at the “Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne”, EPFL
  • Mr Felix C. Seyfarth, Curator and Docent of the MOOC “Think Tank Cities”, Leuphana University
  • Mr Sotiris Makrygiannis, CEO of Eliademy
  • Professor Stephanie Fahey, Lead Partner, Education Oceania at Ernst & Young

Rapporteur: Mr Todd Davey, Manager International Projects, Fachhochschule Münster


Summary of points

About the MOOCs

“Free delivery of higher-education courses online without enrolment restriction”

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC):

  • Online, open and massive courses
  • Routes to formal qualifications available globally
  • ‘Peer-learning’ rather than the ‘teacher-knows all’ model
  • Supported learning by fellow students
  • Socially interactive
  • Topics in “bite-sized” lectures
  • More visual explanations requiring “World-class story-telling”


Who is giving MOOCs?

Presentations from educators:

  • Stanford University – Cofounder COURSERA , discussing the development of MOOCs
  • Futurelearn – Private company coming from the Open University (distance learning pioneers)
  • Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, EPFL – First European university to undertake a MOOC
  • Leuphana University – Small university experimenting with MOOCs out of northern Germany

 

Status of MOOCs

  • Started at Stanford in 2011
  • US is leading the MOOC movement
  • A real focus over the last 2 years despite online learning existing
    for over 15 years
  • Top US universities coming together is what has changed the game
  • Early success
    • Stanford had over 100,000 students (normally 400!) enrolling in their earliest courses
    • Lausanne had 50,000 students started, 10,000 completed
  • 30 of the top 60 universities are now offering MOOCs
  • 20 UK universities through Futurelearn

 

Who is taking MOOCs?

“Democratisation of education”

  • Many of the students are those who have completed bachelor and master courses
  • Many undertaking the courses on a Sunday night (professionals)
  • Large global audience (70% outside the US)
  • Set to change who interacts with education by increasing access:
    • stay at home parent
    • elderly
    • poor
    • disadvantaged
    • burn-out
    • drop-outs 

What is unique about MOOCs?

  • MOOCs are set to change the way students interact with education:
  • Technically – new platforms, more engaging context and engagement
  • Education – students can interact with the content when and where they want, more engaging context and engagement
  • Blurring of boundaries between teacher and learner
  • Conditions in creating MOOC
  1. One-time large investment for platform (self-created)
  2. Continual updates of content costs time and money
  3. “Massifying” the assessment process potentially making it more efficient
  4. Greater specialisation e.g. curriculum development, presenters

Conditions for MOOCs

  • MOOCs are set to change the way students interact with education:

(i) Technically – new platforms, more engaging context and engagement
(ii) Education – students can interact with the content when and where they want, more engaging context and engagement

  • Blurring of boundaries between teacher and learner
  • Conditions in creating MOOCs
    • One-time large investment for platform (self-created)
    • Continual updates of content costs time and money
    • “massifying” the assessment process potentially making it more efficient
    • Greater specialisation – curriculum development, presenters

Benefits (?)

  • Improved teaching by exposing more people to presentations:  “Education becomes visible”
  • Lifelong learning vehicle
  • Access to all
  • Less equipment and seminar rooms required i.e. potentially less costs
  • Favours knowledge accessible to disfavoured people
  • Fosters global competition e.g. french courses were popular in Africa
  • Faster and more responsive creation of content and to an ever-faster changing environment
  • Allows plugging of skill gap
  • Ability to observe how people learn e.g. timeliness of handing in tasks, interaction with other students
  • One speaker: “The majority of students prefer online courses”


Value for MOOCs stakeholders

Motivations of HEIs

– Build brand and digital footprint           – Broader social mission

– Stimulate online innovation                   – Attract additional students

– Experiment commercially

Motivation of business

– Getting better-skilled graduates             – More relevant content

– Access to information about graduates  – More specialised content

Motivation of students

– Access to education                              – Global respective

– Flexibility of learning                            – Dynamic content e.g. video

– Peer-learning opportunities                    – Direct feedback

Thoughts on MOOCs

“This will re-sort the industry, everything is up for grabs”

  • The internet has come to the higher-education sector
  • Could be disruptive to HEIs
  • “supply-chain perspective” – HEIs not doing their job and driven from a dissatisfaction of the skills of graduates going into industry
  • Universities will have to work harder to maintain their brand and customers
  • “But the fundamentals will stay the same” e.g. quality education will win
  • The key to MOOCs success will be industry recognition
  • Will enable people to organise themselves around topics of interest
  • New teaching skills will be required and more specialisation in education
  • A broader ‘knowledge offer’ – Beyond universities, potential employers, museums, i-Tunes university!
  • Picture education and courses offered as “€1.99 downloads” offering icons for your LinkedIn account!

Question marks still to be answered
More questions than answers

  • How do local educators interact with these new online courses
  • What is the business model for this?
  • Does this new qualification mean anything in terms of increase capability?
  • How does this affect the assessment of talent?
  • Will MOOCs replace a degree or supplement it?
  • What happens with the student data and who owns it?
  • Who owns the content and the platform?
  • How will employees (future / existing) become accredited in the future?
  • Do we really want to give the primary role of teaching of students into the hands of so-called US ‘elite universities’ potentially at the expense of the locally-active universities?
  • What affect will this have on the knowledge triangle (the research, teaching and knowledge triangle nexus)