Monday, 9 March 2015

Digifest kicks off, MOOCs and the future of Universities

So, we're at Digifest at the ICC in Birmingham. Bit of a festival theme... .

Posts will probably in note form. Haven't got time to put them into English
It kicks off with a keynote from the CEO from Futurelearn. Launched in 2012, the platform on which 40 Universities in the UK offer their MOOCS.

Worked in BBC radio, and with the onset of the Internet, talk was of the death of the radio, all music would be on demand. BBC rose to the challenge, and, launched 5 new digital radio services, put radio everywhere, and made it available on demand. Then moved to TV and headed up digital services. More hype. Assumption that live TV watching, channels and schedules would be wiped away by services like Youtube. Again, BBC didn't sit back and let it happen. IPlayer launched, on demand, on a variety of devices.

Now in HE, debating whether there's a future for Universities as we know them in this digital world. MOOCs obvious subject of discussion, but it's not about MOOCs, it's about the Internet. There is a bewildering range of opportunities facing HE. What do you prioritise? No right answer, just informed bewilderment. :-)

A number of different things to think about:

Opportunity to open up access to much wider range of audiences, on a wider range of devices, globally. Open up the huge range of expertise and knowledge locked up within its walls to everyone.
Futurelearn platform built from scratch, available on any device. Simple design and interface.
The ability to reach globally will change the mission of the University.
Good map of world showing the reach of a course run by Southampton University about the spread of the Ebola virus and its impact. Impact of the course already profound. Some of highest participation rate. Excellent feedback from medical staff in affected areas, to educate locals.
Just at the beginning of what's possible in opening up access to our knowledge.

Over 1m registered on Futurelearn in just over a year. 60% from overseas. Have overseas partners, from Korea, China, Europe.
Opportunity to recruit new students. Free, online courses can be an important recruiting ground, especially for international students. Can register interest in paid courses.
Need to make content open, shareable, discoverable on the web. Some of their step pages are now open to make them searchable by Google. Increase the digital footprint beyond the course. Some excellent content on courses, at the moment, is hidden.

Social learning
The ability to interact with content and engage with other participants is an important part of platform. All happens alongside the content they are consuming, enabling rich discussion. All participants have personalised profile page, and social networks can be built up.
Biggest course is Exploring English Language and Culture run by British Council, over 100,000 people participated. Lot of social interaction.

Enhancing and improving the teaching experience using digital technologies is essential if universities are going to keep pace with the increasing expectations of their learners. Have to work hard to make sure these courses are not just a load of videos on the web. Need good storytellers.
Also, put the learner first
Simple, delightful flexible user interface
Not just for MOOCs, but for on campus learning as well. Can be used for blended learning

Of the 1m signed up, more women than men, broad age range, and broad socioeconomic backgrounds. Enables universities to reach groups they would not normally reach. Courses for school leavers, professional learners, CPD, personal development. Wide range of motivations.
Futurelearn owned by OU. Free, but piloting different business models. Are producing a statement of participation, if complete most of the course, costs £29. Big uptake.
Courses are free, but are exploring other options for revenue generation.

Audience no longer a passive recipient of content. Are creators in their own right. Need to facilitate and enable that. Eg Help people create and develop games. Share photography on astronomy courses. Develop and share coding skills.

This is not the end of Universities, but an amazing opportunity for them to reinvent themselves in society.

Good start to the conference. Will be interested to see where MOOCs go....

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