Massive open online courses: higher education's digital moment?


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This presentation summarises Universities UK's recent report examining the development of 'massive open online courses' (MOOCs) from a small selection of specialist courses to major online platforms, offering hundreds of courses with millions of users.

It explores MOOCs' surge in popularity and discusses whether this signals the beginning of a significant transformation in higher education, similar to those seen in other sectors, such as the newspaper industry. It pulls together the recent trends in online education delivery and looks at how universities can respond to the changing online environment.

Access the full report at: Pages/MOOCsHigherEducationDigitalMoment.aspx

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  • Analysis by Goldman Sachs. Sources: Bloomberg LP, Dow Jones VentureSource, S&P Capital IQ
  • Massive open online courses: higher education's digital moment?

    1. 1. Massive open online coursesHigher education’s digital moment?Access the full report at:
    2. 2. Massive open online courses• cMOOCs are ‘connectivist’ distributed peer learning courses.• xMOOCs are lecture-based courses on proprietary online platforms.Free, open access, scalable, online short courses• Some courses have attracted over 100,000 registrations.• Many attract between 20,000 and 70,000 initial registrations.Some MOOCs have attracted large number of students• EdX – a not-for-profit company set up by MIT and Harvard.• Coursera – a private for-profit company set up by Stanford academics.• Futurelearn – a private for-profit company set up by the Open University.New online platforms offer MOOCs from many universities
    3. 3. The genesis of MOOCs has a long history…
    4. 4. … that has recently been supported byprivate and philanthropic investment.Venture capital fund investment in education technology firms and providersAnalysis by Goldman Sachs. Sources: Bloomberg LP, Dow Jones VentureSource, S&P Capital IQ
    5. 5. MOOCs can attract large numbers of studentsfrom around the world…
    6. 6. … but students are predominantly‘experienced’ higher learners.
    7. 7. There are high rates of drop out…For further details see:
    8. 8. … but many courses still have large numbersof students completing…
    9. 9. … and a narrow focus on ‘completion’ canhide the diversity of participants in a class.•Learners who complete the majority of the assessments, similar to a student in atraditional class`Completing•Learners who watch video lectures and follow the course for the majority of its durationbut do few if any assessments and don’t obtain course credit.`Auditing•Learners who do assessments early in the course but subsequently have a markeddecrease in engagement, typically during the first third of the class`Disengaging•Learners who watch video lectures for one or two assessment periods either at the startor when the class is already fully under way`SamplingKizilcec, Piech & Schneider (2013) Deconstructing Disengagement: Analyzing Learner Subpopulations in Massive Open Online Courses (available at
    10. 10. As the quality of MOOCs improves…•Automated and peer assessment•Proctored examinations•Automated identity validationAssessment•Innovative use of blended learning•Development of peer learning techniques•Use of technology solutions to teach at scalePedagogy•Creative use of online web resources•Development of a variety of free online learning management systemsLearning management systems
    11. 11. … courses are starting to be recognised foracademic credit in different ways.•Incorporating prior learning into the assessment of a prospective student’s applicationRecognition of prior learning•Recognising previously completed education against the learning outcomes, process andassessment standards of the receiving course to count as credit toward an awardArticulation and credit recognition•Integrating MOOCs into the core teaching programme of a structured course, leading tocourse credit and a higher education awardLicensing•Sharing online courses across multiple providers that are structured in various ways intothe learning process and outcomes of programmes and higher education awardsReciprocal arrangements
    12. 12. MOOCs present a number of opportunities foruniversities…•New ways of engaging and communicating with a wider public•New methods and channels for student recruitment•New tools to support internationalisation and transnational education (TNE)Advance education missions•Flexible and lower-cost models of learning for adults and professionalsDiversify learning pathways•Development of new online and face-to-face pedagogies•Development of new education technologiesDrive R&D around learning and teaching•Collaboration between institutions to share resources and teaching materialsShare educational services
    13. 13. … as well as possible implications foruniversity business models.
    14. 14. The developments require a strategicresponse from institutions.• Mission: What role can open online courses play in communicating knowledge and expertise to raisethe profile of your institution and its departments around the world?• Recruitment: What role can MOOCs play in diversifying recruitment pathways among students fromnon-traditional and professional backgrounds and from overseas?• Innovation: What role can open online models of delivery play in improving the quality and value ofonline and traditional courses for students, employers and society?What are the aims of engaging with massive open online courses?• Sustainability: What are the costs of running open online courses and what are the wider implicationsof a shift toward free course content for the sustainability of existing business and pedagogical models?• Pedagogy: How can an institution add value to the educational experience of students beyond free andlow-cost models to develop different skills, and facilitate access to a social and professional networks?• Credit: What institutional and sector arrangements should be made for recognising certain MOOCs forentry onto paid-for courses and toward a final higher education award?• Capacity: What is the appropriate balance between rapid, flexible innovation and wider development ofprofessional and institutional capacity to implement new online models of delivery?What organisational changes do new online models of education require?
    15. 15. For further information about this report and the issues that it raises please contact:William HammondsPolicy ResearcherUniversities May 2013Access the full report at: