Monday, 9 September 2013

Meet the MOOC executives - An interview with Jose Herrera-Perea

MOOC platforms aren’t limited to the US big three (Coursera, Udacity, edX) and Open Universities Australia has been quick in launching its own platform.
The Good MOOC interviews +Jose Herrera-Perea, Open2Study Executive General Manager.

  • Can you introduce yourself?
My name is +Jose Herrera-Perea and I am the Executive General Manager of Open2Study at Open Universities Australia.
Working with disruptive technologies is a specialty area of mine, having created end-to-end strategies for start-ups, eBusinesses and global organizations. These included Fujitsu Consulting, Seek Ltd and Google.
I am an international graduate with qualifications from Monash University (Australia), Universidad Complutense Madrid (Spain) and Business Dublin School (Ireland).

  • Can you describe what you're doing with Open2Study?
We recognise that MOOCs are a trend in Education which is revolutionizing the Industry. Our unashamed goal is to give students the best on-line learning experience possible. Although we don’t necessarily want to change the education sector, we do want to positively influence how people study on-line.
With the student experience in sharp focus, we have a strict quality criterion that drives our subject development process to provide people with the opportunity of further education. We interrogate everything from the course content, learning and design frameworks and production approaches. And that’s before we’ve even begun any production. We are extremely proud of the results as they achieve our twin goals of quality content and quality production.  We believe that our model is unique in the MOOC market.
Unlike some other MOOCs, we do not offer a platform to be used by a provider on their own. We work in partnership with our providers and work side by side with the lecturers and educators during the design and production phases. This means that Open2Study is always in control of the content to ensure we consistently deliver high quality courses.
We drive and shape the whole online learning experience from the student experience and teaching perspective.  Indeed, the Open2Study teams support and work hand in hand with the educators throughout the experience of developing an online course.

  • What's your business model?

Research and Development is the core of our current business model. Our business model is changing as we are testing and learning from Open2Study, our students and our relationship with our providers in the free online learning space.
Our business analytics tell us that Open2Study completion rates for its courses are almost four times higher than global industry standard. Our students achieved completion rates of 25 per cent or above in our first three cohorts (classes), compared to the MOOC industry average of approximately 7 per cent.
Surveying over 7,000 students from our first two cohorts showed us that:
·      More than 81% of students considered the subject content sufficiently challenging
·      More than 95% of students agreed that the Open2Study website is east to use
·      More than 96% of respondents indicating they would recommend Open2Study to friends or family

  • Why do you consider course completion rate as a key indicator of success?

Completion rates for us are an opportunity to learn how to make the online learning experience a better one for both the students and the lecturers.
We have designed and developed data models, analytical algorithms, reports and dashboards that work in parallel with your learning and development. Our learning analytics drive our understanding of our students, that is, their interests, experience, learning objectives and other information that helps us to improve our service.
At Open2Study, we do not see ourselves as competitors to international universities. Our MOOC ecosystem is designed such that the courses meet both the consumer demand and the digital environment. Open2Study is a natural extension of Open Universities Australia’s core business as an online educator. Online education isn’t an addition to our business, it is our business.

  • Will Open2Study always focus on 4 weeks 'package' or can you envisage longer courses being split in easier to manage four weeks parts?
Open2Study offers online “tasters” across multiple fields and disciplines. Our courses are self contained – all the resource materials, student community connections, videos and interactive quizzes are all readily accessible on the one page. As a fit for purpose product, Open2Study matches the learning objectives with the digital environment which is why we chose to focus on four week courses.
That being said, we also offer two courses which are on demand. This means that students can start anytime on our self paced courses (User Experience for the Web and Management for Competitive Edge).

As research and development is at the core of our business, we will be guided by feedback from our students and educational providers as to how we structure the courses.

  • What's your analysis of the current state of online learning?

MOOCs have the potential to radically change the experience of online learning and alter centuries-old distance education models. However, how free learning will change the online education landscape is still an open question.
The major concern for me is ensuring students are actually learning, the high academic standards are maintained and that student experience is a positive one.
I believe that free on-line education has a place within the education sector. MOOCs are just an extension of the democratization of information.
  • Where do see higher education going in the medium to long-term future?
I believe that MOOCs can have a positive impact on the education sector. Firstly, it has raised awareness of online learning as an effective way for students to meet some of their educational needs. Secondly, it has made learning accessible to everyone. Thirdly, it provides fertile ground for continued research and innovation to improve the delivery of on-line learning.

Yes. I have enrolled in few MOOCs in over the past few years.

  • Which are you favourite MOOCs so far and why?

Given the time and effort that goes into our courses, I will unashamedly say that my favorite is the Open2Study course in Astronomy. I have a tremendous interest in the universe and astrophysics. I found the course extremely engaging. With the fervent interest of an amateur astronomer, the course was able to give me a framework in which to place all my other knowledge. I also found the adaptive learning simulator offered for free in this course made a big difference for me. It helped me to put in practice basic knowledge of Astronomy.

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