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  • Little panic about the MOOC

    - “Coursera is nowhere near making a profit.” At a Brussels’ MOOC-conference speakers predicted an evolutionary process and ridiculed Coursera’s webshop, as the business case for online courses.

    At the MOOC-conference of the Academic Cooperation Association (ACA) and the European University Association (EUA), grand expectations were tempered. The MOOC poses no direct threat to classic universities, though it is a reason to challenge thinking about higher education.

    The MOOC is hot and therefore ‘Making sense of MOOCs’ attracted many administrators, teachers and researchers. Earlier this year the EUA thought the popularity of the Massive Open Online Course was rather overrated.

    A question to be answered: how much of a threat is the MOOC for traditional universities? William Lawton of the Observatory for Borderless Higher Education (OBHE) warned not to panic. “At most we will see an evolutionary change.”

    Universities don’t have to worry too much, Lawton stated, giving the example of Coursera asking a fee for credits. “Students are not interested in the credits, at this point Coursera is nowhere near to making a profit.”

    Hype is exaggerated

    The fact that Coursera recently opened a web shop, selling mugs and t-shirts, was met with ridicule at the conference. The search for a good business case continues.

    On behalf of the EUA, Michael Gaebel said the hype was exaggerated. “Students that cannot take part in formal education participate little in open online courses”, he said. The MOOC is therefore not as emancipatory as it could be. “MOOCs are not so innovative as some people say.”

    Gaebel agrees with the evolutionary shift Lawton projects. No doubt the MOOC will fit into the regular curriculum, by means of ‘flipping the classroom’.

    What’s the problem with credits?

    In the opinion of the speakers at the conference the accreditation of open online courses remains the major stumbling block.

    Nevertheless Iversity says that it has already solved the issue: Iversity now gives ECTS-credits for its courses. Iversity founder Hannes Klöpper had a hard time convincing his audience of the chances his platform offers. “We have to rethink the traditional role of classical teaching.”

    Lithuanian Education Minister Dainius Pavalkis will tackle the validation issue at the next Education Council meeting. “We will arrange a policy debate on that topic, trying to make a first step”, Pavalkis said to ScienceGuide.

    “Validating MOOCs is very convenient for employers that see young people lacking the accurate skills. The idea to recognize a MOOC as an informal skill was first presented at the Vilnius summit on higher education, last September. But my aim is to engage all the European ministers regarding MOOCs.”


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