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MOOCs’ impact on university experience

12 Jun 2013, by Informa Insights

MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) is a growing phenomenon in higher education. MOOCs open up many short-term and long-term questions in regards to the viability of the current MOOCs model and what it means for the future of universities and student experience.

MOOCs 2013We picked the brains of a few speakers who’ll be speaking at the upcoming MOOCs 2013 conference on their thoughts on the impact of MOOCs on the university student experience.

With many considering MOOCs the future of higher education, what impact do you think MOOCs will have on the broader university student experience?

MOOCs are not going to replace campuses anytime soon for Australian students. MOOC providers don’t offer degree programs, there is no credit for their subjects at Australian universities, and Australian students can’t get income support while they study a MOOC. Even if these obstacles are overcome, MOOCs don’t offer the social and lifestyle experiences of a campus. This is a major reason why school leavers show little interest in distance education. In 2011, only one in ten undergraduates aged 21 or less took an off-campus subject.

But MOOCs are likely to be an increasing part of the broader higher education experience. Some universities in the United States are using MOOC content as part of ‘flipped classrooms’. The University of Melbourne is already planning to incorporate materials from its Coursera MOOCs into its on-campus subjects. Other universities may incorporate MOOCs from other universities into their courses. If this is done well, it could be an example of how online educational technology improves the on-campus experience rather than replaces it.
Andrew Norton, Higher Education Program Director, Grattan Institute

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Firstly, I don’t share the belief portrayed in this sentence. I think there is, and will still be opportunity and a desire by students and staff to participate in smaller learning and teaching experiences – both online and also on-campus and face to face.

MOOCs are already having an effect on student learning as a catalyst for universities to think more about learning and teaching – which is a major departure for some universities which are more research focussed. MOOCs does further elevate online learning to a more prominent position as part of the university student experiences.

Universities are also forced to think more carefully at how to be distinctive in relation to other universities and in relation to MOOCs, so that they are able to continue to attract students. MOOCs further pushes the boundaries of openness of higher education – not only open content but also open courseware. MOOCs could further draw students into higher education who might otherwise not have studied further.
Associate Professor Philip Uys, Director, Strategic Learning and Teaching Innovation, Charles Sturt University

Higher education is being transformed around the world, and there is little doubt that MOOCs will have an impact – both in the delivery of online learning experiences for students, as well as on campus experiences. MOOCs are providing many opportunities for students to be able to study online informally, and as universities continue to explore MOOC deliveries, university staff are also brought into the online delivery conversation. This is likely to translate to more development of online learning provided by universities as part of their regular business. Also we can already see MOOC developers trying to address online delivery challenges, such as learner authentication during assessments and this is where online learning might benefit from MOOC provider solutions. And when we look to the cMOOC or Connectivist MOOC front (started by Canadians George Siemens & Stephen Downes) new online pedagogies continue to being explored that put the learner in control in ways that harness the connections afforded by social media. So one impact of MOOCs is certainly on the online learning front.

The second impact of MOOCs on the university experience is to provide enhanced support for courses that they are enrolled in. Several universities are experimenting with enhanced blended courses using MOOCs and crowd sourced discussions in MOOCs as another layer of blended delivery of course. Combine that will MOOC providers looking to partner on university course deliveries, and the student experience is just beginning to be impacted by MOOCs. The next year  or two will likely tell us how these kinds of partnerships and innovations will impact student choices and opportunities that support their learning.
Nathaniel Ostashewski, Online Education Developer (Curtin Business School), Curtin University

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