MOOC Recognition: In Australia’s Hands


Last week the NY Times reported that the Georgia Institute of Technology plans to offer a master’s degree in computer science through massive open online courses “for a fraction of the on-campus cost”. Further, “from their start two years ago, when a free artificial intelligence course from Stanford enrolled 170,000 students, free massive open online courses, or MOOCs, have drawn millions… in a tough electronics course offered by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. But the courses have not yet produced profound change, partly because they offer no credit and do not lead to a degree. The disruption may be approaching, though, as Georgia Tech, which has one of the country’s top computer science programs, plans to offer a MOOC-based online master’s degree in computer science for $6,600 — far less than the $45,000 on-campus price.”

While this development may seem new and exciting, the truth is that Universities throughout the world have had the capacity to provide recognition – and thereby cheaper courses – for well over a decade.

I’m going to go so far as argue that xMOOCS or cMOOCS,or DOOCs don’t cause disruption. There have always been attempts to develop different formal learning models across time, and a MOOC is just one such attempt In the 1970s there was the open classroom, and in the 1980s there were learning circles both designed to disrupt institutionalised learning. The institution proved reluctant to change.

In the context of the digital age the willingness on the part of a university to provide credit is central to the disruptive project, but only if credit forms a broader strategy related to the recognition of prior learning in all its forms. I have argued elsewhere that a focus on credit packages – and this includes credit packages for MOOCS – merely shores up the power of credentialing institutions (those offering MOOCS, and those offering university credentials), and is institutionally focussed, not learner focussed as some advocates would have us believe.  A true learner focussed approach would value not only a MOOC in a learners’ journey, but all other lifelong learning achievements as a package deal. But so doing threatens the business model of the university.

Since 2002 the Australian Qualifications Framework first provided impetus to Australian Universities to provide recognition for up to 2/3 of an undergraduate degree, and 50% of a postgraduate degree. The 2012 RPL Policy similarly provides a framework for the implementation of RPL. This means that any Australian University could save a student thousands of dollars through the recognition of prior learning, right now – today. The problem is a continuing reluctance on the part of Australian Universities to value the learning students bring – whether that be in the form of a MOOC, micro-credentials, lifelong learning, or workbased learning. Although every Australian University is required to have an RPL policy, and some Universities have great credit package arrangements (eg Charles Sturt University), research consistently shows lack of development in this area.

A genuine application of RPL in response to a learner’s evidence at undergraduate or postgraduate levels would mean that a MOOC ++ approach would be taken. Advanced standing would encompass all a learner’s evidence, not just the evidence that two institutions agreed they’ll allow by linking a MOOC and a Masters. I continue to be disappointed by the lack lustre responses being made by institutions to prior learning (MOOC or otherwise). PR attempts to tie a colourful bow around a narrow credit pathway between one MOOC and one course seems to achieve much less than is possible. In Australia at least adherence to the AQF RPL policy should be standard, and students should have the option of many pathways, and robust recognition of prior learning process that are respectful of the many distributed learning opportunities available in a digital age, work, and life.

*Image courtesy of auntsmack4u


Open Learning News

With only nine days to go until the chapter submission deadline, we thought we’d highlight some of the more innovative and monumental goings on in the world of higher education over the last few weeks. We watch with interest to see if any or all of the developments noted below include explicit creation of learning pathways for informal learning. Will learners drawn into open learning developments at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health (USA), The Open University of Nairobi, and HASTAC, be given additional opportunities for credit?

Last week the world’s largest provider of online public health education, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health (USA), celebrated its one year partnership with Coursera by announcing the introduction of 8 new courses to its current thriving bank of 113 for-credit online courses.

East Africa has also seen massive growth with the creation of open and distance learning courses at the University of Nairobi. Professor George Magoha told University World News “Open and distance learning has great potential as an effective tool for provision of education in developing countries because of its flexibility”.

The Open University of Tanzania has been the only stand-alone distance education institution in the area since 1992, offering a variety of undergraduate and postgraduate degrees across a range of specialties.

HASTAC have also created a system to assist budding badge developers with an all you need to know Q&A database on the creation of a new badge. ‘Project Q&A Interviews’ was developed with the winners of the 30 Badges for Lifelong Learning competition. HASTAC states:

“Thirty rich, thorough surveys convey the variety of experiences and insights of badge development and institutional adoption, offering all of us real-life examples of how to build badge system for a wide range of audiences and purposes: higher ed, professional development, museum programs, schools, veterans, workforce development, and anywhere, anytime learning environments”.

For more info in the lead up to the book, be sure to follow us on Twitter, and if you’re feeling up to it, why not submit a chapter?

*Image courtesy of Dave King

Open Learning News

Open Learning

There’s still 3 weeks to go before chapter submissions for the Open Learning and Formal Credentialing Book are due, and the open learning and lifelong credentials debates have only just begun! Make sure you follow us on Twitter for reports and updates!

When this book proposal was first submitted to IGI, conversations about credentialing were only just emerging, and it’s incredible to see how these dialogues have come to the forefront of the higher education world over a few short months.

In the race to keep up with the ever changing digital climate, Universities and learning organisations are constantly altering their systems to accommodate for this popularity surge in open learning.

@OpenExpl reported on an Open Learning innovation contest where innovators with ideas on connected learning are invited to submit their stories, ideas and experiences for consideration by a series of industry professionals and professors.

Inside Higher Ed has reported Deakin University (Melbourne) has launched its first MOOCs on humanitarian emergencies. Students have the option of studying for free, or for a fee of $495 allowing the assessment and awarding of credit towards a postgraduate qualification.

Similarly, La Trobe University (Melbourne) said it would capitalize on its hugely successful free iTunes course on ancient Rome by offering students the option of completing assignments for credit for a first-year subject, priced at $816. (Although one has to ask if this is much of an innovation given it might cost this to do a subject through traditional enrolment).

Not only was Melbourne the first University in Australia to offer a MOOC when it signed up to U.S agency Coursera in 2012, but the decision to use these courses as credit towards a formal degree is monumental and displays real progress in the way of recognition of prior learning. (One wonders why the provision of credit for a MOOC attracts a charge, when credit for prior formal learning within the AQF – for example via TAFE – is typically free?).

The New York Times has reported the MacArthur Foundation and Mozilla have announced they have been working with former U.S president, Bill Clinton, to expand the use of Open Badges, which will greatly enhance general awareness of both Open Badges and the call for recognition of lifelong learning. These innovations are, at least at this stage, free and open.

@OpenBadges drew attention via Twitter at the end of June to commentary by @FrankCatalano concerning the link between badges and professional credentials. Mr Catalano outlines the challenges and benefits of embracing Open Badges, stating: “Embedded in their (badges) small size may lie part of the future of credentialing, building in digital bits upon the best practices of the past.”

In addition, Mozilla have announced their collaboration with the city of Chicago to create the City of Chicago Summer Of Learning. Mozilla Open Badges reported: “Kids can explore, play and learn with hundreds of organizations and earn badges along the way. They can unlock exploratory challenges and make their own projects to add to their skills. They’ll showcase their work at an end of summer event in Chicago, into the next school year and beyond.” We encourage practitioners and scholars involved in these developments to submit a chapter proposal!

*Image courtesy of Giulia Forsythe

Journeys To Open Education Practice

JISC has released “Journeys to Open Educational Practice: UKOER/SCORE Review Final Report, A cumulative evaluation and synthesis of the entire HEFCE funded intervention in OER”. It makes for interesting reading. Much of the report should be of interest to potential authors preparing proposals for our Book: Open Learning and Formal Credentialing in Higher Education: Curriculum Models and Institutional Policies.
In particular, the definition and description of  “open practice” is of use.
It was great to see the following recommendation that the focus be placed on “open education practice” instead of EORs:
Focus on open educational practice rather than solely on OER, viewing these as part of the wider fields of new academic practices or digital literacy (we mean this in a broad sense – not just skill sets). This includes the need to embrace more radical responses to the disruptive drivers affecting higher and Further education, which offer significant learning opportunities.
However, it would have been great to see explicit mention made in in the Learning and Teaching Recommendations, that “open education practices” be expanded to include “recognition practices” (a term being promoted by our Book). The report acknowledges the “wider area of new academic literacies” and from our perspective this includes literacies associated with recognition. Open education practices, in the context of HE, need to be seen as moving forward hand-in-hand with recognition – not an afterthought. 

The Gates Foundation Funds MOOC Research Initiative

Bill Gates. Co-Chair and Trustee of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

The MOOC Research Initiative (MRI) was announced this week. Funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation via Athabasca University, the MRI is “part of a set of investments intended to explore the potential of MOOCs to extend access to postsecondary credentials through more personalized, more affordable pathways” according to the funding website. The MRI is interested in providing access to postsecondary credentials to “low-income and disadvantaged young adult populations”. It is also interested in fostering research about “more affordable pathways”.

ADFI has a current Call for Book Chapters for Open Learning and Formal Credentialing in Higher Education: Curriculum Models and Institutional Policies that offers an opportunity to scholars to publish about the relationships between open learning opportunities and formal credentialing. Some of the same authors may be interested in the funding opportunity provided by the MRI.

While institutions, designers and scholars argue, design, innovate, and publish in the context of cMOOCs, xMOOCs and newer designs like MOOPhDs, it’s good to step back and ask “What’s in it for learners?” After all, some MOOCs argue that their Raison d’être is to maximise student-centeredness, user-generated content, and socially connected learning in a digital age.

It’s time to consider MOOCs – whether open or commercial – from the perspective of a learner’s lifelong learning. MOOCs are one of many formal, informal and incidental learning opportunities that a leaner might utilise. A student’s journey may include a cMOOCs, xMOOCs, formal and informal workbased learning, non-accredited short courses, micro-credentials such as badges, formal enrolled studies (vocational and university), lifewide learning and so on.  Learners now have many opportunities to personalize and build evidence of learning of value to postsecondary credentials – but only if institutions develop recognition practices that value what they bring.

For this reason, we hope that some of the funding about MOOCS via the MRI will focus on MOOCs-in-context of the personalized learning journeys of individual students. This isn’t just a question about learning pathways. It isn’t just about “credit for MOOCs”. It isn’t about how a university might aggregate different MOOCs through a “bolting together” approach with a focus on course content. It is about the sector developing the capacity to focus on the learner-in-context, to interpret evidence in relationship to learning outcomes, and to articulate what “equivalence” means in the context of postsecondary credentials. This is very much an intellectual challenge about whose knowledge counts, where, and why; how it is evidenced; how institutions transform their relationships to personalized learning in a digital age.

Hopefully the following MRI focus question will generate research about MOOCs-in-context and lead to transformative thinking about the relationships between MOOCs (open and commercial); the many other forms of open learning; and credentials for learners.

  • What institutional, pedagogical, learning design, technological, and business models are currently employed and which have the most potential to have a positive effect for our learner population?

Image credit: “The Thinker” by Steve Jurvetson via a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) license

Why Do We Need a Book on ‘Open Learning and Credentialing’?

Academics, bloggers and Tweeters have been buzzing with questions about the future of higher education now that open education resources (MOOCs), badges and microcredentials have come out to play. Commentators have argued about whether or not MOOCs should be given credit, but the question of ‘credit’ fits within a wider question about the relationships that might be possible between a learner’s lifelong and lifewide learning, and formal credentials.

Internationally, policy makers; tertiary educators, designers and learners have been crafting a range of possible solutions that could be called Recognition Practices. This Book aims to explore these emerging Recognition Practices.  In addition, advocates of the Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL), the Accreditation of Prior Experiential Learning (APEL) and Valuing Prior Learning (VPL) are responding to open learning in a digital age in new ways. This Book hopes to bring together these emerging developments. See the presentation below to find out more.