EUA: MOOCs are overrated

Nieuws | de redactie
26 februari 2013 | The European University Association (EUA) paints a gloomy picture on the future of MOOCs. Will this negative outlook on new forms of education stimulate European Universities to embrace technological innovation?

Recently, the European University Association held a discussion on MOOCs. The underlying paper by EUA’s Michael Gaebel (EUA Head of Unit – Higher Education Policy) suggests that the association sees not many ways of embarking on experiments with Open Education, so long as it’s unclear what the future looks like.

In the paper the EUA mainly sums up arguments why MOOCs are overrated: they are not new at all, they are generally of low quality, the whole enterprise is purely business driven and quality of the online courses is hitherto not secured. In short EUA goes to great lengths to discourage early adaptors among their membership.

Reputation no guarantee for quality

The paper quotes Sir John Daniel (Vice-Chancellor of UK’s Open University) and others, who think that MOOCs are at present “rather traditional in their pedagogical and didactic approach and also of low quality.” Daniel is quoted saying: “A first myth is that university brand is a surrogate for teaching quality. It isn’t. The so-called elite universities that are rushing into xMOOCs gained their reputations in research. Nothing suggests that they are particularly talented in teaching, especially teaching online.”

Furthermore EUA expresses doubts about the drivers behind the development of MOOCs: “With the exception of edX (and probably Futurelearn) the predominant business models are not those of university consortia but business-driven. […] Experience from the software industry indicates that markets respond to powerful brands, and do not necessarily adopt the best solutions.”

No credits awarded yet?

According to the European University Association “Questions of responsibility and quality assurance have not been addressed hitherto, although it may be that as long as credits are not awarded these issues need not rise to the top of the agenda.”

Nevertheless credits are already being awarded, albeit on a small scale. Recently the American Council on Education (ACE) assessed the quality of four MOOCs and gave colleges the recommendation to award credits. What is more: the San Jose State University already awards credits for these courses, thereby allowing students to fully integrate MOOCs in their curricula. The San Jose case is quoted by EUA-report.

Searching for the potential

An EUA survey revealed that of the 200-membership “two thirds had heard about MOOCs” and  one third confirmed that MOOCs “had been an issue of discussion.” Apparently individual member-universities of EUA move much faster than the average: recently the Delft University of Technology joined the edX-platform founded by MIT, to mention just one example.

EUA sees no reason why innovative teaching, for example through Coursera, could not be done, but in the mean time the EUA-paper states that “MOOCs have been mainly successful in the US, and so far very few universities in other parts of the world participate.” 


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