The Institute of Technology Sligo (Sligo, Ireland) will now become Ireland’s first public higher education institution to offer a free online course or a Massive Online Open Course (MOOC).
Traditionally, colleges charge fees for online programmes and offer accreditation upon completion. By comparison, under the MOOC model, courses are free, are not accredited and have ‘massive’ enrollments. Ireland’s first MOOC will commence at IT Sligo this September and will take the form of a free, six-week online course in Lean Sigma Quality, the foremost quality process improvement approach for companies in the manufacturing and service industries. The first MOOC will be delivered by Brian Coll and Dr John Donovan, academics from the institute’s School of Engineering & Design who both lecture on the Institute’s online BSc and MSc in Quality.
Miríada X, plataforma de Cursos Online Masivos en Abierto (MOOC’s), ofrece formación gratuita a través de 58 MOOC’s ofrecidos por 18 universidades iberoamericanas.
Los usuarios de Miríada X pueden matricularse gratuitamente en todos aquellos cursos que sean de su interés. Pueden cursar estos programas formativos sean o no alumnos de la universidad que los imparte.
Miríada X ofrece a los equipos docentes de las 1.232 universidades iberoamericanas socias de la red Universia una plataforma para publicar e impartir MOOC’s, a los que se puede acceder desde cualquier parte del mundo de manera gratuita.
La información sobre los 58 MOOC’s se puede consultar en este listado de cursos.
Thanks to funds from UK-based Jisc, about 6,500 newly digitised museum objects from University College London and the University of Reading are now available to students, teachers, and the public at large.
Rare Ancient Egyptian artefacts (enhanced by 21st C. 3D imaging), digital images of zoological specimens, strange and beautiful anatomical prints, sixteenth-century portraits, and intriguing nineteenth-century scientific gadgets are just some examples of the digital artefacts recently added.
“Teaching using museum objects is increasingly popular in universities. However, hands-on time is always limited and providing access to our collections digitally overcomes barriers to independent student learning," says Leonie Hannan, teaching fellow in object-based learning at University College London.
This online compendium of objects, which will add to a bank of 150,000 already existing digital resources from the two museums, can be freely viewed, downloaded, and used on a Creative Commons licence. It is available through Culture Grid, the UK gateway to heritage resources.
Also available is a broad range of interdisciplinary Open Educational Resources (OER) that are both apt for online learning, and suitable for burgeoning initiatives like Massively Open Online Courses (MOOCs). These OER's can be accessed through JORUM (the online educational resource sharing site), using the search term OBL4HE.
"We’re proud at Jisc to see how university museum staff has joined forces with academic colleagues and students to ensured the resources created respond to the needs of the teachers and learners," asserts Paola Marchionni, programme manager at Jisc.
Massive open online courses (MOOCs) have commanded considerable public attention due to their sudden rise and disruptive potential. But there are no robust, published data that describe who is taking these courses and why they are doing so.
As such, we do not yet know how transformative the MOOC phenomenon can or will be. We conducted an online survey of students enrolled in at least one of the University of Pennsylvania’s 32 MOOCs offered on the Coursera platform.
The student population tends to be young, well educated, and employed, with a majority from developed countries. There are significantly more males than females taking MOOCs, especially in BRIC and other developing countries. Students’ main reasons for taking a MOOC are advancing in their current job and satisfying curiosity. The individuals the MOOC revolution is supposed to help the most — those without access to higher education in developing countries — are underrepresented among the early adopters.
European Ministers confirmed their support for the Opening up Education initiative at the recent Education, Youth, Culture and Sport Council meeting. The recently approved Erasmus + programme will provide support to initiatives related to open education.
The Education, Youth, Culture and Sport Council met on 25–26 November, 2013, which brought together Ministers from across Europe to discuss numerous issues related to youth and education. The meeting included a public debate on Open Educational Resources and digital learning.
Image: Education, Youth, Culture and Sport Council press conference
The debate kicked off with a guest speaker, Ms. Uschi Schreiber of Ernst and Young, who emphasized the need for “digitally natural” staff in the workforce. She reminded the audience that in many countries in the world, modern technologies are already fully integrated into the education system and that in this regard, European higher education is lagging.
Professor Azzone, Rector of the Politecnico de Milano, argued that online learning should support traditional learning, not replace it. He suggested that given the high cost of developing an online course (around 100.000 EUR) and the low completion rate (12% for online courses versus 70% for in-class courses), MOOCs and online courses should not yet be fully embraced as a new mode of learning.
Image: European Commissioner Androulla Vassiliou and Dolores Christina, Minister of Education and Employment of Malta
Commissioner Androulla Vassiliou reiterated the goal of making every European classroom digital by 2020. Currently, 50% of children have never had any contact with digital learning. Most EU states have already implemented some form of digital learning initiatives at the national level, but there are ongoing constraints such as copyright and infrastructural issues that require attention. Some ministers argued that the scarcity of data on MOOCs at this point makes it difficult to make informed policy decisions.
The Council adopted conclusions on Effective leadership in education and conclusions on the global dimension of European higher education. The former calls on member states to make educational leadership more attractive by according more autonomy to educational institutions and leaders. The latter outlines three areas of importance in the internationalization of higher education: student and staff mobility; the internationalisation of curricula and digital learning; and strategic cooperation, partnerships and capacity-building.
The Erasmus + programme was also recently adopted by the European Parliament, and is expected to be formally adopted by the Council in early December for a January 2014 start. The programme will benefit from a funding increase of over 40% compared to the programmes it replaces. Erasmus + and Horizon 2020 will be key funding sources for initiatives related to open education and digital learning.
Starting in January 2014, Udacity will offer technical training courses from corporate partners such as Google, Salesforce.com, Autodesk, and Nvidia. While the courses will offer accreditation, they will not be free.
The promise of massive open online courses (MOOCs) was a big one. The New York Times declared 2012 “The Year of the MOOC.” New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman wrote about the “budding revolution in global online higher education.”
“Nothing has more potential to enable us to reimagine higher education than the massive open online course, or MOOC, platforms that are being developed by the likes of Stanford and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and companies like Coursera and Udacity,” wrote Friedman.
Image: Udacity founder Sebastian Thrun, photographed by Martin E. Klimek for USA TODAY
Udacity itself originally promised to provide education “free to the world and accessible everywhere.” Yet Udacity founder Sebastian Thrun found that he was unable to deliver on that promise.
"We were on the front pages of newspapers and magazines, and at the same time, I was realizing, we don't educate people as others wished, or as I wished. We have a lousy product," Thrun was quoted as saying in a Fast Company article. "It was a painful moment."
The problem is that while a MOOC can attract tens or even hundreds of thousands of students, very few of them (less than 10%) ever complete the course. Of those who complete it, not all of them pass. Udacity rode the wave of optimistic rhetoric about the open education revolution, but underneath all the hype it is still a company. Given the failure of its initial product offering, Udacity is pivoting. In entrepreneurship lingo, that means that it is changing its strategy based on its early experiences.
The company has announced a new selection of courses offered by corporate partners such as Google, Autodesk, Salesforce.com, and Intuit, among others. The companies produce and pay for the courses, and in return they get to access and train a pool of potential recruits. Some of the companies are also using the platform to offer training to their own employees.
Image: Screen shot of new Udacity course, "Intro to Data Science"
Thrun recently announced on his blog the launch of Udacity’s “Data Science and Big Data” track, built in partnership with Cloudera. Courses cost between $100 and $150 and students who complete and pass the course will receive credits and a certificate. The courseware is still available for free.
Udacity has received significant criticism about this change of course, notably from MOOC expert George Siemens, who wrote, “This is not a failure of open education, learning at scale, online learning, or MOOCs. Thrun tied his fate too early to VC funding. As a result, Udacity is now driven by revenue pursuits, not innovation.”
On the other hand, most MOOC platforms are not yet profitable and there has yet to be established a sustainable business model for MOOCs. Thrun’s approach is not as idealistic as much of the discourse around open education, but his approach is just one of many in the rapidly fragmenting field of MOOCs. A profit-driven model could have interesting applications for other MOOC platforms or even for education at large.
The British Council has announced that starting in January 2014, it will offer a portfolio of MOOCs for English language learners. The courses will be available on Futurelearn, the UK’s first MOOC platform.
In 2013, over 2 million English language learners took an IELTS test. Access to open English classes online should make it easier for learners to prepare for the assessments and for their eventual work or study in English.
FutureLearn is the UK’s first MOOC platform, owned by The Open University, and its course structure encourages online interaction and social learning. FutureLearn will lend its expertise in online learning to the British Council’s extensive global experience in language pedagogy.
“This new initiative with the British Council provides a valuable opportunity for us to support the development of English language and communication skills for our learners around the world,” said Simon Nelson, Chief Executive of FutureLearn. “We are pleased to welcome the British Council as creators of MOOCs alongside our world-class university partners.”
In 2014, the LINQ conference will take place in cooperation with the EFQUEL Innovation Forum to form a “mega-conference” on the theme of quality in open education.
Technological and pedagogical innovations have rapidly been making their way into the education mainstream over the past few years, but there has been a lack of evaluation of these changes. Tools and standards for quality evaluation and models for development are needed in order to guide educators and policy-makers in their decisions.
LINQ 2014 is seeking scientific paper submissions, as well as proposals for interactive workshop sessions such as learning café sessions, debate formats, thematic table workshops, etc. Contributions to the conference should focus on one or more of the following areas:
- Quality indicators and methods to describe, measure and evaluate quality for open education, OER and MOOCs
- Conceptual contributions on new and innovative quality models, methodologies, standards and approaches for e-learning and open education
- Experiences and reports from practice with implementation of quality approaches for open education
- Required competences by institutions as well as by learners for designing, practicing and improving open learning with high quality
- Local, national, regional and European quality projects in the field of the conference
- Methodologies for and experience of recognition of open learning in formal education and training
- Certification of e-learning and open education in institutions, programs and courses
- Integrated innovation and quality approaches
- Global aspects of high-quality Open Education (e.g. collaborations, comparative studies, cultural aspects)
The deadline to submit papers is January 10, 2014. All papers will be reviewed by the international Scientific Programme Committee in a hybrid review process: open review process and double blind review combination. Please see the Call for Papers for more information.