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Understanding MOOCs @ the Scottish Parliament

An overview of Massive Open Online Courses for staff, researchers and MSPs.


on 23 February 2014

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Transcript of Understanding MOOCs @ the Scottish Parliament

who learns?
the quality question
'The people that have merit, who put in the work are succeeding. The people that don’t are not. I hear this tossed around as an answer to MOOC failure rate, and it scares me a bit. It has taken decades for us to get to a point ...where we are held accountable for social outcomes.' - Mike Caulfield, http://hapgood.us/2013/11/14/thrun-enters-burgeoning-sieve-market/
is this the future of education?
What is a MOOC?
Massive - enrolment numbers
Open - free to enrol, open to all
Online - fully
Course - structured & time limited
MOOCs in the UK
2011 and earlier - open online courses at Coventry University
May 2012 - first UK MOOC (Oxford Brookes)
January 2013 - first collaboration with major US platform Coursera (University of Edinburgh)
September 2013 - UK MOOC platform Futurelearn launches.
25 MOOCs have run from UK universities, 35+ in development
Universities UK report (May 2013); UK Department for BIS report (September 2013) both name MOOCs as significant for the UK.
Interactive timeline: http://www.dipity.com/sbayne/UK-MOOCs/#timeline
in this talk:
What is a MOOC?
Overview of MOOCs in the UK
Who learns in a MOOC?
The quality question
Is this the future of education?
Diving into MOOCs...

Understanding MOOCs @
the Scottish Parliament

MOOC anatomy
light touch,
teacher presence
'massive open online courses are likely to become a standard element of university education with new teaching and learning methods that provide revenue and lower costs. A major challenge is finding suitable business models.' (BIS report, September 2013)
what about:
personalised teaching and support?
contestable topics and ideas?
'digital divides'?
the involvement of commercial interests?
challenges of quality education at scale?
'traditional' higher education?
226,652 people enrolled for Duke University's 'Think Again: how to reason and argue' course.

University of Edinburgh, January 2013: 6 MOOCs, 309,628 enrolments
Platforms: Coursera, edX, Udacity (US), Futurelearn (UK), iversity (Europe)
Self-published MOOCs in a range of environments
peer interaction
quizzes (or peer
& activities
readings &
MOOC anatomy...
minimal structure
focused on
participant contributions
'all institutions will need to evaluate their
long-term strategies in light of these developments
and many are already developing their responses to this rapidly changing landscape.' (UUK report,May 2013)
'could high-quality MOOCs benefit a broader range of learners, like those who get tripped up by remedial classes? That’s the question the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation wants to answer with a newly announced round of 10 grants for the creation of MOOCs for remedial coursework.' (Inside Higher Ed, September 2012)

diving in...
how does the MOOC compare with your experiences of formal education?

how is the MOOC design supporting or hindering your engagement?

what seems to be motivating people in your MOOC?

what are the strengths and weaknesses of this learning approach?
What do you think?

MOOC completion rates rarely rise above 10% (Jordan 2013).

HOWEVER, the ‘outsized media attention’ this statistic invariably receives is not taking sufficient account of those who may be engaging but ‘do not adhere to traditional expectations, centered around regular assessment and culminating in a certificate of completion’ (Kizilcec et al. 2013, p.9).

MOOC practice has to be seen as ‘nuanced, strategic, dynamic and contextual’ (Mak et al. 2010, p.280).
data sources:
Grainger, B., 2013. Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) Report, London: University of London.
MOOCs@Edinburgh Group, 2013. MOOCs @ Edinburgh 2013: Report #1, The University of Edinburgh.
Jordan, K., 2013. MOOC completion rates, katyjordan.com. Available at: http://www.katyjordan.com/MOOCproject.html.
Kizilcec, R., Piech, C. & Schneider, E., 2013. Deconstructing Disengagement: Analyzing Learner Subpopulations in Massive Open Online Courses. In LAK ’13. Leuven, Belgium.
Mak, S., Williams, R. & Mackness, J., 2010. Blogs and forums as communication and learning tools in a MOOC. In L. Dirckinck-Holmfeld et al., eds. Networked Learing Conference. Lancaster: University of Lancaster, pp. 275–285.

Jen Ross, Beltane Parliament Engagement Fellow, University of Edinburgh
Full transcript