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Mini Project 7 - Open Educational Resources and Repositories

This project will discuss the impact and potential of MOOCs on the Higher Education (HE) sector from a perspective of teaching and learning, in a context of globalisation of education, with reference to Laurillard’s Conversational Framework.

Many world class universities are offering delivery of online, content only, courses (MOOCs) free of charge.  The advantages seem irresistible from a neo-liberal HE perspective: the democratisation of education, increased accessibility of high quality education to remote and disadvantaged populations, flexibility, mass enrollment  on courses.

However, there are debates about the effectiveness of MOOCs in delivering education.  From a pedagogical perspective, the courses are not personalised to the learner; there is no mediated  discourse (Laurillard’s Conversational model), no facilitating learner participation as suggested by Collis and Moonen’s Contributing Student (     ), and so it difficult to map this mode of course delivery onto any form of constructivist learning model.

Universities are, as discussed by Nick Peim (2012), dominated by market forces, financial accountability, audits and rankings - operating more as a business entity.  Peters and Besley (2012) write about the new ‘production of knowledge’ and the global ‘knowledge economy’ where course content can be delivered free of charge, as a ‘loss leader’ in marketing terms, with the add ons of certification and enhanced facilities, such as tutor contact or connectivity to other students, available for a fee.  As such, education has been deconstructed and commoditised.  Peters and Besley (2012) called this ‘cybernetic capitalism’ and discussed its influence on global education, standards and curricula as a negative force.  

Notwithstanding the above, there is great potential in HE to adapt to take advantage of the opportunities afforded by new technologies in both  teaching and learning contexts.   Laurillard (2002) proposes that universities set up an appropriate learning context which encompasses properly embedded learning materials, consideration of pedagogy and technical support for students.   Additionally, the HE institution must become an innovative, reflective and responsive organisation, as illustrated by Laurillard’s Conversational Framework (2002, pg. 215) where the teaching and learning aspects and organisational infrastructure are engaged in a continuous process of innovation, evaluation and sharing of knowledge, ideas and experiences.

Highly regarded universities, such as Harvard, are able to attract hundreds of thousands of students globally to their MOOCs, yet the dropout rate, those not completing the course, is alarming as only a fraction of those enrolled complete the courses.   Although it is outside the scope of this project, it would be interesting to research the reasons behind the dropout rates of the MOOC courses, comparing which providers, courses and, where possible, student profile.


Universities must make a decision about what it is they wish to achieve with the provision of MOOCs: do they want to offer a ‘taste of education’ which might induce fee paying students; or present as free, no frills, knowledge sharers?  Universities should be protective of their brand quality and not be seeking to dilute this through meagre ‘course content only’ offerings.  Ultimately, there is an opportunity for MOOCs to have a radical impact for the benefit of learners in HE if Laurillard’s proposals, as outlined above, are embraced.