CETIS white paper on “ MOOCs and Open education: implications for higher education”

The rapid development of MOOCs has generated significant interest in the new form of online learning model from governments, venture capitalists and institutions, due to their key attractions of scaled up ‘massive’ open access to online courses for anyone, anywhere in the world. It has also created a great deal of debate around how MOOCs will have impact on conventional HE providers and whether it will disrupt existing business models in Higher Education.

The phenomena of MOOCs has surfaced many questions about the role of universities in society and has challenged traditional views about teaching, learning and assessment. A key question surrounds how institutions can develop a cohesive strategy in responding to the opportunities and challenges posed by MOOCs and other forms of openness in higher education.

The CETIS white paper on “MOOCs and Open Education” seeks to raise awareness of MOOCs in higher education institutions. It offers a framework for thinking about MOOCs issues and challenges as disruptive innovations and for stimulating future thinking on open education. This report was largely informed by various commentators’ and practitioners’ thinking on MOOCs from their blogs and press releases, with additional intelligence from openly available reports. It has also been shaped by various activities that CETIS have been involved in, for example in promoting openness and supporting innovation in UK institutions.

The report is written from a UK higher education perspective and takes into account current changes on funding and fee structures in the UK higher education and the desire for more accessible, cheaper and flexible HE provisions from traditional institutions and private providers. We hope this report will help decision makers in institutions gain both a better understanding of the phenomenon of MOOCs and trends towards greater openness in higher education and a framework to think about the implications for their institutions.

TEL-Map Future Search Workshop in Shanghai

In September, at the International Open Forum of e-Learning and Standardization in Shanghai, we organised a TEL-Map workshop to identify the main drivers in the use of technology in education, explore possible future scenarios of Technology Enhanced Learning and develop roadmaps to desired futures. The workshop provided a unique opportunity to engage people, both Chinese experts and experts participating in the 24th meeting of ISO/IEC JTC1 SC36 taking place at the same venue. Three main questions were used to prompt discussion and to enable the participants to pool their thinking and ideas about the current state and future vision of TEL, and how to achieve the desired future. These main questions were broken down into sub-questions as below:

1. What is the current state of Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL) in your country or region? (drivers)

  • What are the most interesting developments in TEL you know of?
  • What are the main drivers that are likely to impact on TEL in your country or region over the next few yea
  • What would you identify as the significant lessons learned from the past in your country or region?

2. What is your vision for the future? (input to creating a shared desired future/s)

  • What kind of innovation in learning technology would you consider to be desirable?
  • What would you like to see people doing with technology to benefit education?
  • What kind of culture and organisational structures do you think that educational institutions will need in order to deliver the desired future?

3. How do you see this vision being achieved? (roadmap)

  • What would you see as priority actions which should be carried out soon?
  • What are the main emerging developments you see supporting this?
  • What are the main problems and obstacles that you see along the way?

Participants worked in groups with colleagues from their own country or region. Firstly, they were asked to write down their own answers to the questions on post-it notes and stick them on a flip-chart. They then shared each other’s views and add any new ideas emerging from the discussion onto the flip-chart. Finally, participants agreed the most important point for each question and moved it to the top of the flip-chart. The participants also had the opportunity to look at the outcomes from other groups.

Around 20 people attended the workshop, in two main groups – China and European/Asia/US. We had a lively discussion in both groups and all enjoyed the process of sharing their views and ideas with each other. The following are key observations and finding from the workshop:

  • A wide range of different views emerged from different groups and individuals along with a few surprising ideas.
  • Both groups considered mobile learning as the most interesting development in TEL.
  • The Chinese participants agreed that national policy and commercial market were the main drivers of TEL while the other group considered technology to be the main driver, focussing on upcoming advanced mobile solutions enabling ubiquitous Learning Environments anywhere, anytime and in any context, and the even more advanced Brain Computer Interfaces, promising to make learning enjoyable and detecting cognitive dissonance.
  • Not surprisingly, both groups agreed that interoperability and data exchange standards were the most important lessons learned from the past, which represented the concerns from the standards community well.
  • Simple and easy to use tools for teaching and learning and universal and affordable access to education through technology were top concerns for desired technology innovations.
  • Adopting an open approach, bridging formal and informal learning and connecting with various learning communities were top concerns for institutional culture and organisational change in order to deliver the desired future.
  • Assessment and evaluation were the main problems and obstacles for TEL for the Chinese participants. Other concerns included ineffective investment mechanisms and inequality, lack of support from local governments; and the increasing digital divide between different regions and between the rich and the poor, which means that disadvantaged groups are unable to benefit from advanced technology.

A summary of perspectives on TEL in China from this workshop is available here. All  presentations from the Open Forum can be downloaded at the www.sc36meeting.org site.