This mornings main session at RUGIT was about MOOCs, Massively Open On-Line Courses. We had a presentation from the University of Edinburgh, who launched 6 MOOCs in January of this year. It was a very interesting presentation, and very timely, as we are discussions what Sheffield should do about them next week!
MOOCs are open to everyone, there are no mandatory qualifications and are free to enrol on. The learners who enrol on them aren't really students - they pay no fees to the institution which has no commitment or relationship to them. There is also a huge drop off rate as people enrol at the beginning and then drop out after only completing part of the course.
The courses are fully on line, but there is evidence that people doing them organise physical meets.
They are very lightly tutored and usually supported by teaching assistants, not academics.
They do offer assessment in various forms, and have low study hours per week. The MOOCs currently offered by Edinburgh are short (5 weeks) and have no relation to each other. At the end you get a certificate of completion rather than credits.
They are a completely different business model to traditional HE.
MOOCs come out of many years of technology enhanced learning. For example, on line and on campus eLearning, and online and off campus distance learning. You need to understand how to do teaching and learning on line before starting a MOOC, and apply the same rigorous approval and quality assurance processes to all.
Many companies offer a framework through which courses are offered, providing the hosting and all related administration. Edinburgh joined Coursera. After they launched their 6 courses 300,000 people joined them - that's a lot of admin you don't want to handle yourself, despite the big drop off.
The frameworks have on-line spaces for learners to self support, wikis, discussion forums etc which are moderated. Courses tend to contain a lot of video, but in short clips.
One thing I hadn't realised is that MOOCs have a start time and an end time with timed assessments. Learners can't join anytime and go at their own speed, they have to keep up.
All of the features of MOOCs, for example the automated assessment tools, are open source because of the enormous licensing costs if you use a commercial product. There also deals being done with some publishers to make their materials available for free on line.
Currently there are no credits earned through completing a MOOC, one reason being the difficulty of validating who exactly is doing the assessed work!
Future of MOOCs not certain, the bubble could burst and they could fade away. Or they could expand and diversify and we could see the emergence of specialised MOOCs in unique areas.
One thing is for certain, they are not a money maker!
Some interesting things to consider when we look at whether to go down this route. I think the important question we will need to have a clear answer to, is Why? There will also need to be a clear understanding of the resource implications, they are not a cheap option.
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