Monday, 28 October 2013

Meet the standard setters - An interview with Darco Jansen

Since April 2013 partners in 21 countries have joined forces to launch the first pan-European
MOOC initiative, with the support of the European Commission, OpenupEd.
The Good MOOC interviews +Darco Jansen, OpenupEd’s coordinator to get a better understanding.

  • Can you introduce yourself?

I am a programme manager at the EADTU. I am responsible for development of different long term themes for EADTU(-members) on Online Education, MOOCs and OER, Employability and Open and social Innovation (e.g. with (small) businesses). I am also coordinator of several European projects.
My fields of expertise are e-learning, open innovation, educational business development, continuous education, non-/informal learning and workplace learning.
I have worked for over 20 years at the Open Universiteit of the Netherlands where I have had extensive experience in developing distance courses with e-learning, in leading course development teams and as a leader of educational innovation programs.
I was the pioneer of open textbooks in the Netherlands (2007-2009) and I initiated and participated in national programme Wikiwijs in creating a platform to publish, share and arrange Open Educational Resources (2009-2011).
Currently I am the coordinator of the first pan European MOOC initiative OpenupEd. Our most recently finished European projects are Open Educational Innovation & Incubation (OEII) and Cross Border Virtual Incubation (CBVI).

  • Can you tell us more about EADTU?

Established in January 1987, EADTU is Europe’s institutional network for open and distance higher education, e-learning and lifelong open and flexible Learning. Members of EADTU are universities that are dedicated to off-campus target groups using distance teaching methods and systemic study guidance, mostly in regional study centres, as well as organisations or consortia consisting of universities with mainly mainstream on-campus students but also give a priority to offering education for off-campus students. Most of the members are frontrunners in the provision of educational programmes for the 25 plus age cohorts, but increasingly also for the conventional age cohorts of 18-25. At present its membership covers 10 Open Universities, over 200 conventional universities and around 3 million students across Europe. The EADTU network covers the European Union and Bologna signatory countries (at present 24 European countries). EADTU engages in interaction with representative European student member bodies and/or platforms whenever possible, so as to incorporate students’ interests at best.
EADTU supports the European development of its members and their members on the inner-consortia level and is committed to strengthening its members, both individually and collectively, through stimulation of cooperation and expression of views on the national and international level. Because of its strong identity and branding,  EADTU has become the spokesperson in EU consultation meetings.
EADTU has developed leadership in many domains, e.g., in open and online education, lifelong learning, technology enhanced learning, quality assurance, open educational resources, mobility, networked curricula, knowledge sharing with business, etcetera.
In 2013 EADTU started the first pan European MOOC initiative OpenupEd.

Since April 2013 partners in 21 countries have joined forces to launch the first pan-European
MOOCs initiative, with the support of the European Commission. This MOOC initiative has been named OpenupEd and refers indirectly to the new European program Opening up Education launched on 25 September. Androulla Vassiliou, European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth, sees this initiative as “a key part of the Opening up Education strategy”

  • Is OpenupEd Europe’s answer to a perceived US dominance in MOOCs?

The main reasons for launching OpenupEd is linked with the need felt by EADTU members to develop a pan-European initiative as an answer to US domination through the so-called x-MOOC phenomena and also to bring a set of values connected to the European online learning tradition. In particular, we felt the US-led trend was much too focused on the technological aspects of MOOCs and not on the pedagogical ones, missing the critical importance of assuring the quality of the independent-learner experience.
OpenupEd is a quality brand and partners are collaborating on those MOOCs that really focus on opening up education for all. Although there's a clear diversity of institutional approaches, the partnership has agreed on a framework of eight common features for its MOOCs in order to open up education to a maximum level. In fact, we believe quality MOOCs are much more than offering a course freely online, even if they are in the local language. We identify other important aspects as to use local case studies close to the living experiences of students, also use open license policy, open accessibility, a pedagogical & didactical approach that put’s the learner at the center, learning materials that are designed to support self-study and provide students with a reasonable chance of success in an education and recognition option that include opportunities to obtain a formal certificate. We embrace the diversity in approaches to open up educations by the use of MOOCs. At this moment we are developing a quality label for MOOCs (‘OpenupEd label’) and instruments for monitoring and research.

  • Do you aim to become a European answer to edX or Coursera?

For the moment OpenupEd uses a decentralized model for the operation of MOOCs. I.e. each institution is fully responsible for its own MOOCs operation including its quality assurance. As a consequence OpenupEd is not offering any LMS/CMS system for MOOCs at this moment. Most OpenupEd partners do already have stable learning environment that supports students with online education on a massive scale.
We do not have the ambition to compete with EdX, Coursera, etc. We have another additional playing field focussing on quality branding and not providing a platform for running/exploitation of MOOCs. MOOCs of FutureLearn, Coursera, etc. can be included as OpenupEd course if they fulfil the criteria. As such OpenupEd is a central communication portal, a referatory to the institutional platforms where partners are collaborating on a quality brand of MOOCs.

  • Will you be participating in a move towards delivering certifications?

Another important aspect is that the OpenupEd MOOC participant is also provided with real opportunities to participate in higher education. OpenupEd provides separate tracks to engage people in higher education. Next to certificates of participation or a ‘badge’ (as evidence of task completion), OpenupEd partners increasingly offers MOOCs with the possibility to obtain a formal certificate, i.e. official credits that can count towards obtaining a degree.

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

The innovations in technology-enhanced learning in higher education in the past two decades have been extraordinary. But, to date, despite the ubiquity of online pedagogic and administrative tools, ICT has scarcely impacted on the fundamental structures, functions and cultures of higher education in Europe. The Open Educational Resources movement, in which EADTU played a prominent role in Europe, has created a completely new sector of informal learning in higher education. And although it has offered the prospect of structural transformation, there has been as yet no deep impact on the sector. Informed observers in and beyond the sector do not expect the current phase of the OER movement – the advent of MOOCs – to leave higher education similarly untouched.

Martin Bean, the Vice-Chancellor of the UK Open University stated: “OERs and MOOCs are opening new doors, encouraging new thinking, forcing a venerable old industry to take a look at itself in the mirror and have a long hard think about what it wants its future to look like.”

Sir John Daniel lately stated “The real revolution of MOOCs is that universities with scarcity at the heart of their business are suddenly embracing openness”.

  • There’s been some controversy with what ‘open’ means or should mean...

MOOCs are not only a breakthrough of online education but also of Open Education and Flexibility (the next hype term). But open is not the same as free and online.

Openness can indicate:
- open access to courses without entry qualifications
- free online available resources (e.g., open educational resources and MOOCs)
- open licensing of educational material permitting reuse, reworking and redistribution (e.g. OER, open access journals, open source applications)
- acceptance of credits for prior learning (APL) or credits from other institutions (ECTS)
- access for everybody, hence also for those with special needs
- open pedagogy
- open in the sense of affordable

Flexibility can indicate:
- flexibility in terms of space, time and pace of study
- flexibility in terms of the choice of courses, in order to personalise the curriculum
- flexibility in terms of pedagogy to enable students to adjust study-paths and enable remediation after assessment

  • What about the criticism that MOOCs are herald a new era of severe cost cutting?

You can also look at this by the changing needs of students and society as a whole. The main driver on open (and online) education on a national or global level is access to higher education for all. This is extremely relevant and beneficial for Developing Countries and Emerging Economies. In the USA for example a driver is the reduce costs of HE (with Open TextBooks and now with MOOCs). At an institutional level it is (was) mainly marketing, offering something for free to attract more students. But by now open education has become competition and demand driven. The reality and prospect of increasing costs to students for their higher education, coupled with the much more accessible teaching and learning resources are already contributing to raised expectations. Students will increasingly seek a high quality, responsive, interactive, personalised experience, and conventional teacher-centred pedagogy will not provide it.

  • How do you see MOOCs and higher education evolving in the medium term?

We can expect pedagogy across the sector increasingly to resemble the learner-centred and online approaches that the European open and distance sector has developed over the past 40 years, based on its own extensive research and development. Of course, traditional pedagogy will not disappear, and there is little prospect of a dissolution of the boundaries that exist between the conventional and open and distance sectors, but it is clear that both sides have more to gain from each others’ expertise than at any time in the past. Boundaries are unlikely to disappear, because we generally address different student target groups, but they are likely to become more permeable.

Yes two. At the moment Big data in Education from Coursera.

  • Which are you favourite MOOCs so far and why?

Not enough experience by now. I personally prefer MOOCs with a learner-centered  approach and a rich network environment like cMOOCs. However, it strongly depend on the goal for myself and the time I could spent. So in suggest that a diversity of MOOC approaches is needed,  as long as they  provide students with a reasonable chance of success in a system centred on their individual needs in multiple arenas for learning.

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