LogoWhile the concept of free-of-charge, university online courses for large numbers of learners is not a new one, recently established Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) have received keen attention from the higher education community and the media. Companies in the US have started offering free-of-charge online education courses. Developed in collaboration with renowned universities and individual scholars, in a short period of time some of these courses attracted tens of thousands of learners around the globe. Coursera, one of the companies, claims to have more than two million registered learners.
The fact that these initiatives emerged rather suddenly, and that some did not seem to have a clear business model — they usually do not charge fees — certainly added to speculation regarding the intentions behind MOOCs and the long–term consequences for the higher education sector. For some, the MOOCs stand for a “learning revolution”, providing high quality education at low costs and unprecedented prospects for enhancing global access and participation. Meanwhile, critical voices have lamented that many of the recent MOOCs are not truly innovative, but have rather traditional learning approaches and goals, and some see them as an attempt to rationalise and further commercialise higher education.
EUA Council (national university associations from across Europe) at its recent meeting in Istanbul held a discussion on MOOCs and their potential impact, but also the prospects that they could offer to European higher education. Discussions were based on a paper, authored by Michael Gaebel (EUA Head of Unit – Higher Education Policy) which has now been published online. Read more...