Follow up on National MOOC Symposium

A recent report shows that the number of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) being offered by institutions, and the intention to develop more, is continuing to increase throughout Europe (Jansen & Schuwer, 2015). And last week around 350 delegates from around the world participated in the third European MOOC Summit in Mons, Belgium.

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On Thursday and Friday, and continuing over the weekend, the Higher Education, Research, and Culture in European Society (HERCULES) expert group of the Academia Europaea (AE) hosted a special Symposium in Stockholm at the Wenner-Gren Centre exploring new and emerging models of teaching and learning. A major focus of this event was on MOOCs. The Symposium attracted many of the leading researchers and thought leaders in the area in Europe and the United States, along with representatiives from countries as far as China and Japan.

While the future of the MOOC is uncertain, we should not underestimate both the local and global impact that the Internet, and online learning more specifcially, is having on the Higher Education sector. As Amara’s Law reminds us, “We tend to overestimate the effect of a technology in the short run and underestimate the effect in the long run.”

The level of interest that MOOCs have attracted from media, politicians and senior academic leaders throughout the world is unprecedented in recent times. Arguably, no other educational innovation in the past century has received the same level of media attention and ground swell of interest from millions of people expressing their willingness to explore, discover and learn through new technology. Of course, the hype of the MOOC movement must be unpacked from the hope.

Therefore, at the beginning of May, the National MOOC Symposium was an effort by the NIDL to facilitate more critical discussion about some of the claims, counter-claims and unresolved debates surrounding the rapid growth of MOOCs, with a particular focus on the Irish context. It is important to acknowledge the Symposium was supported with funding from two European projects which are designed to mature our understanding of the potential of new models of open and online education.

Many of the presentations (slides and videos) from the National MOOC Symposium are now available on the NIDL website. Highlights include the two keynote speakers, Professor Mike Sharples and Dr Darco Jensen, who provide contrasting perspectives on major MOOC initiatives underway in the UK, US and Europe. Mike provides the Academic Lead of FutureLearn and Darco is the lead researcher in several European funded Open Education initiatives.

Other speakers over the course of the day provided examples of local initiatives, such as presentations from IT Silgo and Trinity College Dublin (TCD). An analysis of the competing and co-existing institutional drivers behind MOOCs may be of wider interest along with a study we have underway in the NIDL of how MOOCs have been presented in the Irish Media. We look forward to hosting similar events and symposia in the future in areas of particular interest.

Major Contribution to EdTech 2014

NIDL and DCU staff played a prominent role at the recent EdTech 2014 conference of the Irish Learning Technology Association (ILTA). Over a dozen presentations were given by DCU and linked College staff and both Dr Eamon Costello and Dr Mark Glynn were centrally involved in the conference organisation. The highlight was probably Professor Mike Sharples‘ keynote on lessons from massive pedagogy using FutureLearn as a case example. Dr Enda Donlon was a finalist for the Jennifer Burke Award and only missed out by 2 votes in taking out the prize.

Presentations from NIDL staff included amongst a range of topics: using surveys without the hassle in Moodle, lessons from the experience of implementing MOOCs down under,  the use of Metis for school placements, the DCU e-portfolio initiative, an assessment matrix for designing and developing assessments, an example of augmented reality in higher education, and design and implementation of a blended learning programme in Malawi, and the value of increasing flexible access to third level learning.

The conference closed with an address from Professor Sarah Moore from the National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning who formally launched the draft or preliminary Digital Learning Roadmap for building capacity in higher education.