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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Monday, 21 October 2013

Can a MOOC teach you how to write a novel?

+David Meulemans taught philosophy at Sorbonne University, then quit to set up a publishing company, then launched a startup to cure writer’s block.
The Good MOOC interviewed him back in July but he’s got a new project we were keen to hear about.

  • Can you tell us about your latest project?

We've just launched an online creative writing course. I suppose it's a first. Our MOOC is an introduction to fiction-writing. My goal is to give a small push and a daily routine to people who want to write fiction, but lack the self-discipline to go through with it. We've opened on the forum on the 18th of October - the first week will start on the 28th and it will last eight weeks, ending on the 14th of December.
We will post a short video every day and a longer set of videos on Saturdays.
We will ‘hack’ peer-review to increase collaboration and at the end of the MOOC, my publishing company (Les Editions Aux forges de Vulcain) will pick one of the novels written during the class.

  • Why did you decide to jump on the MOOC bandwagon?

We have launched the beta version of DraftQuest on April 4th 2013. And, since then, I've been testing and improving the tool - thanks to our numerous testers. But I realized that some users wanted more. They wanted a class. And it occurred to me that they have the same recurring questions. So a MOOC seemed like the next logical step. Moreover, I used to be a university professor, and loved teaching. So it felt like going home, even if the MOOC allows me way more freedom than the classes I used to teach, back in the old days. I made up my mind fairly quickly but designing and recording the class took a lot of work.  

  • Can you share what creating the course involved?

I had to change the way I teach, be very rigorous and always keep the users in mind. The people from Neodemia have been a great help when it came to design the syllabus.

  • For most MOOCs, success is measured through basic quizzes, do you really believe everybody will finish your course with their own novel?

No. And, to be honest, if every student completes a novel, that would mean a mass of more than a thousand novels... Completion of the class will have several key indicators. For example, did it help students to overcome the writer's block? Did they find time in their daily routine to write? Do they feel better about themselves? But I would love to see a hundred first-time novelists!

Less than 10%. I believe it's a great class, and I think Neodemia helped me come up with something that will be truly useful to our students. But writing is hard, takes time, patience, and commitment. Even if I work hard to find ways to make it easier, it will always require commitment. Above 10% seems good. It will be a great success. 1% would be a disappointment...

  • Any plans for an English version of this course?

I see the French version as a test. Most of my readings about writing are in English. So I really want to produce an English version of this MOOC. That's one of my goals for 2014. I think english-speaking audiences will enjoy this class. It's both informative and fun.

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Monday, 14 October 2013

Meet the edtech entrepreneurs - An interview with Adam Brimo

Many universities still view courses as content, and teaching as the dissemination of that content. The OpenLearning MOOC platform starts from the premise that a course is a community and if you have a strong community then the course will be more enjoyable and memorable.
The Good MOOC interviews Adam Brimo, OpenLearning Co-Founder.

  • Can you introduce yourself?

I'm the co-founder and CEO of OpenLearning, based in Sydney Australia. I have an Engineering (software) degree and an arts (politics) degree from UNSW. I previously started, a consumer activist campaign in 2010-2011, which resulted in nationwide media coverage, an ACMA inquiry and a $1bn network upgrade for Vodafone’s Australian business. I've also worked at Macquarie Bank and Westpac Institutional Bank and I've been dedicated to OpenLearning for about 2 years now.

We're making education more enjoyable. OpenLearning is an online learning platform that is based around the principles of student autonomy, diversity of learning materials, openness of resources and social interactivity. The platform is flexible, easy to setup and allows universities, teachers and companies to deliver rich and engaging courses online. You can deliver a free public course at no cost or a private course for a per student fee.

  • Can you elaborate on the business model?

Our business model is similar to GitHub. Anyone can teach a free public course for free however if you want to restrict who can take your course then we charge the course creator $10 per student.

We also provide organisations with an educational portal (like a YouTube channel for their courses) that supports custom branding and integration for $50/user/year.

  • Can you explain what you consider as your main differences and similarities with Udemy?

Our business model is similar however our platform is completely different. Udemy focuses on self-paced video courses while OpenLearning focuses on full course delivery (i.e. university courses) and building a community around a course through social engagement and interaction.

  • Where do you see higher education going in the medium to long-term future?

Universities are facing many challenges, in particular they have high fixed costs funded by variable revenue streams. On top of that, most universities are heavily focused on research and don't put enough resources into teaching. Academics are hired for research and do the best they can with few resources and little time for teaching students.

Universities need to change but campus-based education is not going away and I don't believe it should. Going to a university is a life changing experience for most students. University can be a place for students to learn about new topics, make new friends, gain experience organising events and managing students societies. These are valuable skills and when coupled with great courses that involve group work, student interaction and exploration, it is a wonderful experience. I was lucky to have that experience at university and I hope students in the future can too.

It's a good idea and we've integrated with their platform. We haven't see many students synchronise their badges with Mozilla, which is probably because they haven't seen much benefit in doing so. Students are generally more interested in placing their badges or certificates on LinkedIn where they will be seen by others.

  • There's a fair bit of MOOC skepticism out there (particularly when it comes to retention rates)... Do you have anything to say about that?

When 100,000 people signed up for the Stanford machine learning course, I doubt anyone actually believed 100,000 people would complete the full university course. We've found that with most MOOCs there is a large percentage of people who are 'just looking' or have a passing interest and never intend on completing the course. Of those that do intend on completing the course and have enough background knowledge to do so, you'll find the retention rates are much better.

We've seen a lot of success with shorter introductory MOOCs rather than university courses. Most people cannot commit a 12 week course while they are working or raising a family but a shorter 3-5 week course is much more manageable.

  • Which are you favourite MOOCs so far and why?

Entrepreneurship by Prof Mushtak Al-Atabi Taylor's University in Malaysia, which ran on OpenLearning, is my favourite. I was moved to hear the stories of students worldwide who have never had access to higher education and thoroughly enjoyed the course. The course required students to form groups, pitch their ideas and start a business with people they had never met in person. It was incredible to watch the students organise themselves and collaborate and the professor did an amazing job at facilitating the discussion.

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Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Meet the edtech entrepreneurs - An interview with Pierre Dubuc

Before the phrase “Massive Open Online Courses” had been coined, France’s Le Site du Zéro was a successful open education platform offering tutorials. Now renamed OpenClassrooms, its co-founders are ready to take on the big MOOC platforms.
The Good MOOC interviews Pierre Dubuc, OpenClassrooms Co-Founder.

  • Can you introduce yourself?
I am co-founder of OpenClassrooms, a Paris-based startup publishing an open education platform since 1999. My partner Mathieu Nebra and I started this long adventure when we were 13!
OpenClassrooms now has 2,5 millions unique visitors a month, +600 000 members, +800 courses...
For 14 years, we've built a strong community that crowdsources creation and curation of courses. Now we are currently building partnerships with universities, schools, and companies to help them create MOOCs on our platform.

  • Can you describe how you first heard about MOOCs?

I discovered the term MOOC 18 months ago, through press releases about Stanford. In a flash, I realized that this new word described perfectly what we were doing and aiming for years! The fact that top universities were moving toward open education was an exciting news.

  • There's a fair bit of MOOC skepticism out there (particularly when it comes to retention rates)... Do you have anything to say about that?

I think that the fact retention rates is lower than the brick-and-mortar courses is quite normal. Subscribing online takes only 30 seconds and a few clicks, there is no real engagement in this action. The conversion funnel is quite typical on the Internet.
However there are some poor quality MOOCs where the conversion is lower than the average. Those have to be rejected or improved. Fortunately those MOOCs are easy to spot...

On every course, we develop several business models, depending on the topic:

We think that the first two points will have the most traction in the next years.

  • Will you seek to co-create courses with institutions of higher education or are you happy to completely bypass the current system?

Yes, we are currently creating courses with institutions and will soon start to announce many partnerships with universities, schools, and companies.

  • When do you see MOOCs and higher education going in the future?

I am one of those that think MOOCs will deeply transform higher education and vocation training. The market is going to be consolidated around a few global platforms. Innovative and top universities will attract a lot of more students whereas other universities will start having troubles recruiting new students.
MOOCs make courses open and public, and that forces teachers and universities to provide only the best. In the coming years, we will manage to provide high-quality courses to large audiences and that's pretty exciting!

That's good news! The French government and universities will be investing money and resources in e-Education. I think that we will be part of this initiative in the next months, since only a partnership between private and public stakeholders could end up having great impact on education.

  • You recently re-branded your site... Is it your ambition to become a global player?

Yes but our first goal is to work on the French-speaking countries (France, Canada, Belgium, different countries in Africa...). Then we will quickly expand on the European market.

  • Which are you favourite MOOCs and why?

My favourite MOOC is CS50 from Harvard.

This is one of the most complete one I've seen, with even a dedicated website. You will find videos, exercices, quizzes, homework, seminars, references... Teachers and assistants are especially brilliant at engaging students over weeks and months. It is renowned as a hard-working course but an excellent overall experience.

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