“Open Education Lab” is a discussion platform designed within the scope of an academic project by Prof. Johann Füller at the University of Innsbruck, investigating novel approaches and concepts in the field of open education in an open-minded way. The research study discusses common questions about open education, mainly based on a broad analysis of the concept of massive open online courses (MOOCs). Furthermore, the project aims to gain new insights on the development of innovative educational developments also within the industrial sector.
Together with his team, Prof. Füller performed a broad market research and installed the discussion platform to gather opinions from Key Opinion Leaders in the field concerning three main topics (the following content is quoted from the discussion platform www.openeducationlab.at). If you are interested in discussing with other experts please write an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and you will get your personal account information.
1. MOOCS – Hype or stable trend? Technologies & Development
MOOCs comprise the possibility to reach learners all around the globe. Users can learn “www” – wherever, whenever and whatever, the spectrum of courses offered is immense. Topics ranging from the natural sciences over managing trainings to yoga classes are thought for free. However, high quality education might not always be ensured. We would like to propose potential weaknesses of instantaneously offered MOOCs and likely challenges for the successful implementation of MOOCs in the industrial educational landscape.
Every strength comes with a weakness! Although MOOCs provide the user with freedom of choice regarding subject, schedule and quantity of content, in order to successfully complete a course a high degree of self-organization, self-discipline and time management is demanded from the learner. High drop-put rates are the result.
In order to produce a MOOC, certain technical qualifications need to be mastered by the producing institution and the lecturing speaker. Although general guidelines can be found on the web, a control for quality is rarely offered. Technical training and mediation of media competence are strongly recommendable.
Active engagement in the community is observed only in 10% of users. Interactivity, social integration, discussions and self-presentation are characteristics of traditional learning forms which are not adequately transferred to the MOOC landscape yet. However, peer-to-peer mentoring and collective thinking might produce the most creative results and intellectual approaches.
Learners might be interested in an official certification of qualification they obtained by completing courses. Accreditation from an acknowledged educational institution therefore represents a reasonable demand towards MOOC providers. Thus, cooperation with universities, (vocational) schools and other accreditation institutes should be of high interest also for MOOC suppliers in the industrial sector.
Mentoring and Guidance
Be it virtual or in-person: most learners appreciate some form of guidance during their educational training. MOOC providers rarely offer such support. One could imagine that the former traditional teacher might take the part of a mentor or content guide. Also guidance in form of an artificially intelligent coach might constitute an alternative. The community, on the other hand, could constitute a place for consultancy and support.
In the traditional sense, openness with regard to education comprises characteristics such as open access to the content, open source software for the usage of the content, open educational resources (textbooks, applications, journals,…), open learning (flexibility, individualization) and open data (re-using, sharing). Are MOOCs truly as “open” as they are claimed to be?
Mere online learning might not constitute the exclusive solution for most efficient and long-lasting learning success. The combination with an offline component, for example in form of presence seminars, discussion groups, group-work or hands-on training might help the learner to transfer the learned knowledge to “the real world”. Problem-solving tasks, training setups and working groups might therefore constitute essential tools in addition to the online presented content for the manifestation of the MOOC concept for education also within industry setting. Especially technical professions might benefit from such a blended learning form that combines online and offline elements.
2. MOOCs’ Strengths and Weaknesses: Challenges for the successful implementation in an educational institution
The Gartner Hype Cycle
Examining the development of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) on the hype cycle (A), we might derive that MOOCs stand at the through of their hype development. Consequently, in the very near future, a stable trend will likely dissociate from the unsteady hype. Similarly, the steady increase in user numbers of the main MOOC providers (B) suggests that the status quo is settling on the top of the hill, with user numbers ranging up to 10 million.
Various technological trends and developments will strongly influence teaching, learning and the ways of communication between learners and educators. The inspection of these technologies on the hype cycle (C) allows for the differentiation between rather new and highly modifiable from steadily established tools. For the purpose of this study, we are interested which technological trends will permanently be incorporated in educational processes.
3. MOOCs spreading over the Educational Landscape – Does the dual education system have a need for MOOCs?
The (German) Education System – a classification
Within the scope of our study we were interested to examine existing MOOC providers for their target groups within the educational landscape in Germany. Therefore we categorized the following educational sectors (A):
1) secondary schools until 9th grade
2) secondary schools until 13th grade
3) Universities and technical colleges
4) Dual education system (vocational training schools)
5) Advanced training
Additional non-educational groups included:
6) Business companies
7) Socially and globally disadvantaged groups
Immense supply for universities – lack of offerings for the dual education system?
By categorizing the main existing MOOC providers into the described sectors and groups (B), we observed a plethora of suppliers serving the target groups of universities (60% of the analyzed providers, C) and also advanced training in general (45% of the analyzed providers, C). However, vocational training school and the secondary educational system seem not to constitute a significant target group for MOOC providers (only 5% of the analyzed providers, C).
Want to share your thoughts on the (open) future of education and learning? Hope to see you at www.openeducationlab.at!