Making sense of the MOOCs

Brussels, 10 October 2013


‘MOOC’ stands for Massive Open Online Course, which is a form of distance learning embraced not only by traditional providers of distance learning (e.g. open universities) but also the elites that are highly visible in global rankings. The MOOCment originated from North Americas about five years ago and has rapidly spread around the world, with China, India and recently Europe, all pledging to MOOC along. They do this either by using established big-name American MOOC platforms (e.g. Coursera, edX) or constructing their own (e.g. iversity and FutureLearn in Europe; icourse in China).

MOOC enthusiasts see the movement as a revolutionary change in the world of learning. MOOC sceptics regard it as another technological hype that may soon fade away. The openness of MOOCs is also being called into question when the providers start to attach a price tag to the use of the platform, the licensed content or the certification of the learning results. Besides, some MOOCs are no longer ‘courses’, but complete degree programmes. Some MOOCs were intended for massive enrolments but have attracted only a few. With rapid developments in the MOOC world, the MOOC today may be completely different from the MOOC tomorrow and the MOOC in one country may be defined differently from one in another country, depending on the orientation of the providers and the target audiences.

Knowing that MOOCs have also caught the attention of European university leaders, national policymakers and those in EU institutions, the upcoming ACA European Policy Seminar – Making Sense of the MOOCs – seeks to unpack the concept of MOOCs, trace its developments in Europe and beyond, and to reveal the back office in the production of a MOOC with practical examples. We will also look at the geography of MOOCs and discuss whether and how MOOCs can possibly take root and blossom in Europe.

Producing MOOCs could be labour and capital intensive, although the contents are free for the learners and will probably remain so in order to continue attracting the attention of the mass. It is therefore necessary for institutional leaders to survey the changing MOOC environment, know what they are, how they could be organised and, more importantly, funded, before jumping onto the bandwagon.

As a usual practice in any ACA European Policy Seminar, we will bring together the most qualified speakers from a good mix of backgrounds to present a multidimensional picture of the subject. And we encourage open discussion, critical reflection, practical advice and friendly exchanges on this hotly debated topic.

The seminar, jointly organised with the European University Association (EUA), will be held on 10.10.2013 (Thu) in Brussels.

For this special event co-organised by ACA and EUA, we are pleased to extend the ACA members’ rate to all EUA members. More information about the fee rebate is available on the registration page.

38th in the series “European Policy Seminars” of the Academic Cooperation Association