This special issue of the eLearning Papers is based on the contributions made to the EMOOCS 2014 conference jointly organized by the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) and P.A.U. Education. The success of this conference with more than 450 participants demonstrates that MOOCs are at the beginning of a wave and a first step towards opening up education.
Why are MOOCs innovative? They provide alternative ways for students to gain new knowledge according to a given curriculum. MOOCs can also enhance learners’ ability to think creatively to select and adapt a paradigm to solve the problem at hand. These are the main findings of a case study on the Discrete Optimization MOOC on Coursera.
Many higher education institutions are asking their staff to run high quality MOOCs in a race to gain visibility in an education market that is increasingly abundant with choice. Nevertheless, designing and running a MOOC from scratch is not an easy task and requires a high workload. Professors from Universidad Carlos III in Madrid offer a set of recommendations that will be useful to inexperienced professors. An MIT study also gives key findings on optimizing video consumption across courses.
What are the defining characteristics of a MOOC? Can we categorically differentiate a MOOC from other types of online courses? This is one of the central questions of the debate on the future of MOOCs. An UNED study proposes a quality model based on both course structure and certification process. Most of the debate around the future of MOOCs focuses on learners’ attitudes such as attrition or a lack of satisfaction that leads to disengagement or dropout. A Stanford study shows how educational interventions targeting such risk factors can help reduce dropout rates, as long as the dropouts are predicted early and accurately enough. A French researcher shows that learners who interact on the forums and assess peer assignments are more likely to complete the course. Another Stanford study tested different approaches to measure the extent to which online learners experience a sense of community in current implementations of online courses. In a similar context, a German team of researchers studied the collaborative endeavour of planning and implementing a cMOOC.
One of the key elements of the discussion around MOOCs is their relevance to students in their respective cultural settings. A Leicester University researcher contemplates whether activities, tasks, assignments and/or projects can be applicable to students’ own settings; for example, giving students the freedom to choose the setting of their projects and the people with whom they work. These questions are central to making MOOCs truly accessible to all.
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