Wednesday, October 10, 2012

How Australian Universities Can Play in the MOOCs Market

University of Maryland to Offer Four Free Cour...
Courses Through Coursera (Uni of Maryland Press)
by Professor David Sadler, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Students & Education) at University of Tasmania, The Conversation:
FUTURE OF HIGHER EDUCATION: The rise of online and blended learning and the development of free online courses is set to transform the higher education sector. We’ve asked our authors how to remake the university sector so it can best respond to this revolution.

For two weeks, we’ll be running a selection of their responses. The series will conclude later this month with a panel discussion in Canberra co-hosted with the Office for Learning and Teaching and involving the Minister for Tertiary Education, Chris Evans.

Universities with global reputations have been the first to establish themselves as big name players in the Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) market. Their ventures, including Coursera, Udacity and edX, are all dominating this space with large numbers of students enrolled.

The billion dollar question for Australian universities is: how can we compete with the world’s most prestigious institutions in the MOOC space? On a comprehensive scale, maybe we can’t.

But their popularity has shown one thing conclusively - there is a hunger for learning out there in the community that is not being met by normal avenues.

Australian universities should embrace this challenge and see it as an opportunity to cater to this market for learning, personal and professional development by engaging with our communities and local industry to see what skills and knowledge are needed.

A fork in the road

What do we know so far? Levels of interest are staggering: courses with 100,000+ registrations. Coursera, for example, reports that more than 1.3 million people have tried at least one of their MOOCs.

Despite the excitement around these big numbers, there is still much uncertainty. Drop-out rates run at around 85-90%, with lack of time, motivation, technical and cultural confusion cited as reasons for withdrawal.

Sustainable business models have also not yet been developed while it is still unclear what value completion is in terms of credit for credentials, or how MOOCs align with regulatory requirements.

But the interest in MOOCs cannot be so easily dismissed. The scale is a phenomenon which renders comparisons with traditional enrolment and retention rates unhelpful. It is one thing to withdraw from a degree where so much personal (and often familial) investment has been in the qualification and quite another when it is free, enrolment takes seconds and the decision to withdraw is painless.

Why join a MOOC?

Understanding why people have been drawn to MOOCs is a key part of the puzzle for Australian universities. Many join a MOOC to simply explore an interest or to experiment. Many others seek to develop specific areas of expertise in a range of educational, technical or professional employment settings.

As e-learning consultant Lou McGill recently noted some are motivated to join a MOOC for unique networking opportunities with others who have similar interests, those already in their preferred profession or with students currently enrolled in the courses delivered in more traditional environments.

But edX’s recent survey tells us that successful students overwhelmingly preferred their MOOC experience to their previous engagement with comparable courses.

While this may be a specific comment on the quality of the EdX course, it is surely telling us something about the learning preferences of today’s students and the extent to which our offerings are meeting their needs and expectations.

To read further, go to:
Enhanced by Zemanta

No comments:

Post a Comment