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Reflections on the state of MOOCs, from the eMOOC2019 Conference

- June 10, 2019 in Featured, guestpost, MOOCs, oer, open-education

By Fabio Nascimbeni & Valentina Goglio
Couple of weeks ago, we attended the eMOOC2019 conference in Naples, an international event gathering the major global MOOCs providers such as Coursera, edX and FutureLearn, aiming to advance the international debate on MOOCs and online learning in general.                               Our main takeaway is that MOOC as a concept is evolving, and not towards an open future, for at least two reasons. First, despite the rhetoric put forward by the major global MOOCs providers, who still speak of “MOOC revolution” and of “MOOCs transforming access to education”, the feeling is that MOOCs are losing their first O (the one of Open). The new “usage models” adopted by the main international providers tend in fact to restrict the open and free use of their MOOCs resources in different ways. Let alone that MOOCs content are very rarely released as OERs, we have been getting used to MOOCs whose content is available only when the course is actually running, and now we have to face the fact that once we subscribe to a course we have access to its content only for a limited period of time. The first one to introduce a paywall for graded assignments was the for-profit platform Coursera in 2015, then joined by FutureLearn in 2017, which further restricted free access to course materials to 14 days after the end of the course. The latest to join the group is the non-profit platform EdX, whose course materials will not be freely accessible after the end of the course, starting from early 2019 (source: Class Central) Second, as demonstrated by the micro credentials hype coupled with the massive entrance in the MOOC market by the Australian recruitment company SEEK (that invested some 50M$ in FutureLearn and more than 100M$ in Coursera), MOOCs are transforming into “off the shelf skills development courses” with a clear employability target. As Mark Brown noted in the OpenupEd Trend Report on MOOCs, the recent wave of MOOCs is moving toward MOOCs for credit and Continuing Professional Development. The new hot topic are micro-credentials: professional short degrees that pile up single MOOCs or online university courses to form a short and consistent series on a specific topic. Not surprisingly, opportunities and limitations associated to such resources targeting professionals and other medium-high skilled workers were discussed, during the eMOOC2019 conference, in three parallel sessions and one plenary round table. Gone are the days of the MOOCs revolution in a lifelong and informal learning sense. We know MOOCs started as a phenomenon connected to Open Education, and many of us have witnessed the turn that this kind of online courses have taken from the first open and connectivist experiences (of Downes and Siemens, among others) towards more content-based and structured courses with an increasing employability and market value, but “clockwork MOOCs” are not easy to digest. On the positive side, the eMOOCs conference also showed some more open approaches to MOOCs, such as the one by Federica.eu, the MOOCs platform of the hosting organisation Università Federico II of Naples, or the Open Knowledge POLIMI which provides all video lectures freely available on their dedicated Youtube channel. It is possibly in these national experience where we can still find some of the original breadth of MOOCS. For the rest, quoting the inspiring presentation of Monty King on postcolonial aspects of MOOCS: “the empire MOOCs back”. — About the authors Fabio Nascimbeni works as assistant professor in the International University of La Rioja, and is a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Sao Paulo (USP), where he collaborates with the CEST – Centro de Estudos sobre Tecnologia e Sociedade. He is a member of the Executive Committee of the European Distance and eLearning Network (EDEN), of the Editorial Board of the EURODL Journal, as well as of a number of Scientific Committees in the field of learning innovation. He is active in the field of innovation and ICT for learning since 1998, by designing and coordinating more than 40 research and innovation projects and promoting European and international collaboration in different areas, from school education to higher education to lifelong learning. Further, he has coordinated a number of international collaboration actions in fields spanning from Science and Technology, ICT research, information society development, educational research, specifically focusing on Latin America, the Caribbean and Asia. His main research interests are open education, learning innovation, e-learning, digital literacy, social and digital inclusion, social networking. He can be followed as @fabionascimbeni on Twitter. Valentina Goglio is Marie Slodowska-Curie Fellow at the Department of Cultures, Politics and Society at the University of Turin (IT). Valentina does research in Economic Sociology and Sociology of Education. Her current project is on diffusion of MOOCs and their social implications for access and returns to education. (this post was originally published in the http://research.unir.net/ blog)

“The night of the living MOOCs”: a feasible and high-impact proposal

- March 21, 2018 in guestpost, MOOCs, oer, open educational resources

By Fabio Nascimbeni, assistant professor in the International University of La Rioja and member of the Open Education Working Group Advisory Board. The current  #fixcopyright campaign that aims to modify the upcoming European Copyright Reform by instilling more …

“The night of the living MOOCs”: a feasible and high-impact proposal

- March 21, 2018 in guestpost, MOOCs, oer, open educational resources

By Fabio Nascimbeni, assistant professor in the International University of La Rioja and member of the Open Education Working Group Advisory Board. The current  #fixcopyright campaign that aims to modify the upcoming European Copyright Reform by instilling more openness for the benefits of citizens, educators, and researchers across Europe, can be summarized in one sentence: “Europeans deserve freedom to use digital content in education”. This very same sentence was used by one of the speakers during a recent webinar organized by EDEN in occasion of the Open Education Week 2018, and generated an interesting debate on how policy should make sure that education is treated with particular care, when it comes to guaranteeing access to open and quality learning resources. Interestingly, within the webinar the sentence was not referred to online learning resources in general, but specifically to MOOCs. The claim of the speaker, a university teachers who is using MOOCs as a complement within the curriculum, was that MOOCs, that potentially represent an unprecedented set of online learning resources, are limited in their use by educators by one major issue. Any researcher in the field of OER and Open Education would quickly say that this issue is the act that MOOCs contents are normally not released as Open Educational Resources (OER), making impossible for a teacher to adapt them to the specific needs of his/her context. While this is certainly true, our professor said that adapting the content of MOOCs is not the problem – she would not have time to do that anyway and if you are able to search for good quality MOOCs there is not that much to change, in her words – while the real issue is another, somehow a simpler one. The fact is that typically MOOCs are “open” for participation only in some specific periods of time, and therefore cannot be used by a teacher as a curriculum complement in case the course that we want to complement takes place outside the MOOC duration. A quick non-exhaustive search on Class Central, one of the most complete directories on MOOCs, seems to confirm this. If we search for example for MOOCs on mathematics, we see that out of the 292 mapped courses 45 are actually “in progress” and 82 are self-paced, meaning that they remain constantly open. This makes 127 actually “usable” courses out of the overall 292, that is only around 44%. The situation is even worse for MOOCs on business studies (only 36% of which are actually available) or on medicine (32%). Further to this, what is most striking is the high number of so-called “finished courses” (33% in mathematics, 26% in business, 40% in medicine): the content of these courses is simply no more available. This “MOOC demography” is striking: in our example on Business studies, out of a population of 1510 MOOCs the living people are a minority (36%), the not-yet born are quite a lot (Recently announced and Future Courses sum up to 38%) and the dead ones are 26%. In other words, this means that in general terms and with all due exceptions (such as MOOCs platform that might grant access to content also when the course is not running) the majority of content produced within so-called Massive Open Online Courses, not only is not open in the OER meaning, but is not even accessible Online. Advocating for MOOCs providers to make available the content of the courses under development prior to the courses launch (the not-yet born) would probably be too much, but on the other hand allowing teachers (as well as any other user) to access the content of the Finished Courses (the dead ones) is something that could be easily done, and arguably would not represent a problem in terms of MOOCs business models. Bringing these finished MOOCs “back to life” would increase the amount of available MOOCs content by roughly 25%, and would allow teachers accessing them for their classes in a permanent way. This would not transform MOOCs into OER, but would surely represent an important step, especially considering that MOOCs are increasingly being used as complementary resources integrated in the curriculum, towards the freedom that Europeans deserve to use digital content in education.

Yes we can Inchallah: Morocco OER Strategy Forum

- December 9, 2016 in Featured, MENA region, MOOCs, oer, Open Educational Practices, open-education, world

By Daniel Villar-Onrubia Javiera Atenas

This week we had the opportunity to participate in the Morocco OER Strategy Forum hosted by Cadi Ayyad University in Marrakech as part of the OpenMed project. We spent two very inspiring days learning …