MOOCs and other animals: ‘open & online’ report published

April 3, 2014 1 Comment


The Welsh Government today published a major report entitled Open & online: Wales, higher education and emerging modes of learning.  The report covers all aspects of courses and resources freely available online at higher and further education levels in the UK and beyond. It contains the most up-to-date and balanced assessment so far of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), and makes seven main recommendations.

The report was commissioned in February 2013 by Leighton Andrews AM, the previous Minister for Education and Skills, and prepared by an independent Online Digital Resources Working Group.  It was completed and submitted at the end of September 2013.  Its contents should be of interested to anyone concerned with MOOCs and other animals, in Wales and well beyond.

The Working Group surveyed all aspects of ‘open and online’ courses then available, including well-established ‘open educational resources’ (OERs) as well as MOOCs offered by large US-based providers like Udacity, Coursera and EdX and more recent entrants such as the Open University’s FutureLearn.   Dr Paul Richardson of Jisc RSC Wales, who was seconded to the Working Group, wrote a detailed overview and evaluation of the whole field, included as a background paper in the report.  Paul summarises the definitions, history, business models and educational applications of OERs and MOOCs, and surveys in particular current practice and future plans in Welsh higher and further education.

The Working Group took a balanced view of the significance of MOOCs.  Its members could find no evidence that they were likely to overturn established higher education practice or sweep away existing institutions, as predicted by their more excited advocates.  On the other hand the advent of high quality online courses and resources, available easily to anyone, free and world-wide, is clearly significant.  They present universities with both challenges from organisations with substantial resources and a worldwide ambition.  They also offer opportunities:

  • to increase the profile of an institution and its courses
  • to advertise the institution to potential students throughout the world
  • to widen participation and reach new kinds of student
  • to extend links with employers and offer workforce shills training
  • to enhance pedagogic practice and develop innovative kinds of course
  • to track with accuracy the progress and attainment of students

The report suggests a number of guiding principles that higher education institutions should bear in mind when constructing, or participating with others, in open and online resources, and considers the practical considerations that will face them, including resourcing.  Sharing and partnering with other bodies are suggested as the best way forward for those universities eager to step into the field.  It then makes recommendations, three to the Minister for Education and Skills, Huw Lewis AM, two to the Welsh higher education institutions, and two to both:

To the Minister:

1          Widening access to higher education to those with low participation backgrounds

Fund the development of O&O resources for use in schools and colleges, with the aim of raising aspirations of learners from low participation backgrounds.

Investigate the use of Hwb as a host for the O&O resources developed, with the intention of establishing a central repository where all schools and colleges may access these resources.

Extend the work of the Open University OpenLearn Champions project to cover the whole of Wales via the Reaching Wider Partnerships.

Liaise with NIACE Dysgu Cymru, Agored Cymru, and others to align O&O resource production with the needs of adult learners pursuing agreed progression routes, including CQFW.

2          Developing skills for the workplace and the Welsh economy

Develop a strategy, working with other agencies, to raise awareness of the potential for online learning to support economic development.

Use the Welsh Government’s sector panels to foster dialogue between stakeholders (including educational providers and employers) in order to identify opportunities to develop skills using online resources.

Examine how online learning should be integrated into the approach for programmes funded through the European Social Fund.

3          Developing Welsh language skills for employment

Develop a Welsh language skills MOOC at higher education level so that students and work-based learners can develop their professional Welsh language skills and potentially seek certification for those skills.

To the higher education institutions:

4          Reviewing institutional policies, monitoring developments and exploiting opportunities

Agree what the institution’s overall approach to open and online resources should be, monitor external O&O developments, and exploit opportunities to produce and use resources.

5          Strengthening institutional reputation and brand

Exploit open and online resources in appropriate circumstances to showcase the quality of learning opportunities.

To the Minister and the higher education institutions:

6          Improving the skills of higher education staff

Institutions should provide academic staff with the skills and support they need to make most effective use of open and online approaches to learning.

HEFCW should continue to contribute to the costs of Jisc’s programme on open and online resources and take advantage of Jisc’s expertise.

7          Licensing and sharing open educational resources

The Welsh Government should encourage the systematic adoption of open licensing for open educational resources produced by HEIs in Wales

Where possible staff and institutions should release open educational resources using an appropriate Creative Commons licence.

Institutions should make open educational resources widely available, including via the Jorum repository.

Open and online resources clearly have the capacity to make a difference to how universities plan and deliver their teaching and learning, and to how their practice relates to the pre- and post-higher education worlds.  With luck the report and its recommendations will stimulate them to think which way they will go, alone or in partnership, and help the Welsh Government give them appropriate support and encouragement.

Comments (1)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

Sites That Link to this Post

  1. Welsh Government Report on Open and Online | Open World | April 10, 2014

Leave a Reply