Mon 20th February 2017 - 12:02

Are MOOCs here to stay?

MOOCs represent the ultimate ‘learning à la carte’. Knowledge is accessible anytime anywhere, making them attractive to participants.

For educators, MOOCs represent a revival of the education ideal of knowledge beyond borders. Higher education institutions and systems use MOOCs as a way of advertising what their courses have to offer, and for lesser known institutions, online courses allow access to knowledge which could otherwise be difficult to get. MOOCs also open up a wealth of business opportunities, through support services and MOOC creation websites.

How much of a revolution do MOOCs represent?

The number of MOOCs is growing rapidly. According to the European Scoreboard, MOOCs have nearly doubled in seven months across the world, and although the growth rate in Europe is slightly smaller than for non-European countries, the number of European MOOCs on offer still grew to 1541 in 2015.

However the real indicator of the MOOC revolution doesn’t just lie in the numbers. Changes to Higher Education systems, as well as changes in curriculum and pedagogy in ‘traditional higher education courses’, tell a more complete story.

MOOCs reshaping the European higher education landscape

Increasing interest in MOOCs from governments and the private sector in Europe shows that MOOCs could not only be here to stay, but are also being acknowledged as a significant trend in European higher education. 

While MOOCs have been popular for a number of years in the US, particularly as a way to advertise what their degrees have to offer, European platforms hosting MOOC’s are also becoming more visible.

These platforms include the private Iversity; British FutureLearn; and the French Université Numérique FUN, a national platform launched in 2013 by the French Government to promote and disseminate the teaching offered by French HEIs. There is also an increasing number of online MOOC-builder tools, some funded by the European Commission, that are helping European universities to showcase their courses.

MOOCs are included in ‘traditional’ courses

The way that MOOCs are changing some traditional degree content tells us a lot about how far they are being accepted, but the use of MOOCs in these courses poses questions about recognition of learning and accreditation.

Educators tend to raise concerns about the use of MOOCS and new technologies – they say that MOOCs need to be included in a coherent curriculum, rather than as an isolated elective. Yet there is evidence of MOOCs beginning to be included in traditional courses. For example, the Stockholm School of Economics recognises MOOCs as electives as a proportion of its traditional degrees.

Will the MOOC philosophy become the norm in higher education?

The expansion of MOOCs goes hand-in-hand with MOOC developers generating innovative ways to make open courses financially sustainable. An example of this can be seen in the popular ‘payment upon certification’ model, which offers courses for free but learners must pay a fee for an accreditation certificate. As some of the courses on offer come from prestigious universities for the fraction of the price of traditional degrees, it’s not hard to see why MOOCs could be changing the education landscape for years to come.

But for MOOCs to be considered a legitimate alternative or addition to higher education, the MOOC pedagogy rather than its content needs to spread to higher education. This means that learning providers need to provide a space for learning through network interaction and the shared shaping of content, instead of providing linear content prepared only by a teacher. It’s not until MOOCs have had widespread effect on pedagogical methods in these ways that we’ll know they’re here to stay.

Are you interested in learning more about MOOCs? Check out our dedicated area for more about MOOCs and e-Courses. 

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