The democratisation of higher education requires widening access to studies that lead to useful qualifications, and giving people more opportunities to select study programmes themselves and easily design their own courses from the rich pool of material freely available, Sir John Daniel told the “Worldviews 2013” conference last week. The question is whether massive open online course, or MOOCs, will help or hinder that process.
|Scooped by Peter B. Sloep|
The article is an account of a keynote Sir John Daniel gave at the Worldviews 2013 conference. He unpacks democratisation as either widening access or as students themselves determining what they study. Widening access may simply mean increasing enrolment, but it often specifically refers to removing the stumbling blocks for access, as open universities have done over the four last decades (freedom of place, pace and time of study). Technology plays a role in this but it changes as new technologies become available. The second interpretation of democratising education has a more recent origin and is nowadays referred to as open educational resources. What I find interesting about this account of democratising education is that it connects the characteristics of open universities with the availability of open educational resources (OERs) and reveals them to be two sides of the same coin.
Do these sides come together in MOOCs? From my perspective they might do in cMOOCs, which heavily rely on OERs and through their online character put no constraints on time (but they do on time and pace). They certainly don't in xMOOCs. Although access to the course materials does not require a fee, the materials are not open in the sense that they may be edited or even used by third parties (such as non-participating universities). Here too, there is no constraint on the place of study but there is on the time and pace. Which prompts the question of whether a marriage of these two kinds of democratisation would indeed be an interesting development and, consequently, whether this is something open universities should pick up. Two initiatives suggest this is already taking place. The one is FutureLearn (http://futurelearn.com), initiated by the Open University of the UK, the other is OpenupEd (http://www.openuped.eu), an initiative of the European Association of Distance Teaching Universities (http://www.eadtu.eu), backed by the EU's Lifelong Learning Programme. (@pbsloep)