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MOOCs and their Role for Future Education #

By Martin Ebner, Head of Educational Technology, Graz University of Technology

Quote: “Higher education institutions have to think about the education of the whole society and maybe so-called micro-credentials can be very attractive in this respect.”

Massive Open Online Courses - shortly MOOCs - are huge free available online courses for the mass and in the best case, the content itself is open licensed. First offered in 2012 by Sebastian Thrun and his course on artificial intelligence (AI). This course attracted more than 100,000 learners. But why these courses are of high interest? Of course, the courses are mostly of high quality and often related directly to higher education. In contrast, we see a lot of criticism because of a high dropout rate. Over the last years, more and more higher education institutions began to offer those courses on special MOOC platforms. One of those platforms is iMooX.at—the nationwide platform for MOOCs in Austria. Since 2014 far more than 150 courses have been offered there, by different, mostly German-speaking universities completely for free. In the meanwhile, even also through the pandemic, we were able to gather a lot of experiences how lecturers or students use those courses for their daily work or learning behaviour. The most interesting facts I would like to point out:

MOOCs are open and allow collaboration: Not only students can use these courses for learning, but also lecturers of different institutions. They can integrate the content into their teaching. Even the labour market benefits from such courses due to their free nature. Higher education gets available and reaches a broad audience. MOOCs are flexible: How you use those courses in your personal teaching depends on the didactical scenarios. It can be used in flipped classroom settings or in a so-called inverse blended learning environment. Microcontent is useful for any teaching and learning scenario.

MOOCs tend to innovate education: A lot of innovative educational aspects coming along with MOOCs. The exchange between different institutions in different countries, for example. Or the huge discussion about digital certificates or the idea of a fast transfer of knowledge from universities to the labour market. This list can be easily extended. Anyway, even MOOC platforms themselves can be combined. So, we started in November 2020 the MOOChub (https://moochub.org), where all German-speaking MOOC platforms offer their MOOCs in just one place - free and open. Today more than 500 courses can be found here. For the future, we strongly believe that further European cooperation is essential to bring this educational content to learners. And we don't see just students as our main target group but also the growing labour market. Higher education institutions have to think about the education of the whole society and maybe so-called micro-credentials can be very attractive in this respect. So iMooX.at is also a member of the European MOOC Consortium (EMC), which tries to standardize how to make micro-credentials useful for the labour market as well as for higher education institutions. To summarize it very shortly, MOOCs are online courses that allow a flexible, open, collaborative, and finally also certified education for both students as well as adult learners on a high-quality level. We expect that the market for online courses, also as a follow-up to the pandemic, will still grow rapidly and can attract many learners over the world.