MOOC Recognition: In Australia’s Hands

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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

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.