In response to the proliferation of massive open online courses (MOOCs) from institutions around the world, Curtin is taking a strategic approach to defining our position and an appropriate course of action.
What are MOOCs?
As the name suggests, MOOCs are Courses (or units in the Australian taxonomy), that are Open to anyone, delivered via the Internet or Online, and have the capacity to be Massive by reaching an unlimited number of learners.
In understanding MOOCs, it is helpful to consider both the student’s and institution’s perspective.
|student’s perspective||institution’s perspective|
MOOCs bring both opportunities and threats for Curtin to consider. The most significant threat being how the tertiary education sector could be exposed to global competition. Conversely, the most significant opportunity is that Curtin can leverage MOOC tools, techniques, and approaches to drive down delivery costs while accessing new markets for our educational offerings.
We have recognised the need to act. We have also recognised that our response must focus on both mitigating risks and seizing opportunities, and that it must be rapid.
Simply offering MOOCs will not mitigate all of the threats indicated above. Our response must not only include offering MOOCs, but also applying MOOC tools, techniques, and approaches (including automation and learning analytics) to a range of existing educational offerings, as appropriate.
The different MOOC platforms
There are many MOOC platforms and partnerships currently in the market. The well-publicised ones are Coursera, Udacity, and edX. There are also many others.
Given the sheer number of MOOC alternatives and the immature nature of the market overall, we have developed a framework to bring order to the landscape.
A description of each category is provided here .
Curtin’s Proposed Strategic Position on MOOCs
1. Apply MOOC-thinking to conventional offerings
In order for Curtin to capitalise on opportunities and mitigate threats, we need to rapidly incorporate MOOC approaches, tools, and techniques (or MOOC-thinking – a Curtin coined term) into some of our conventional offerings. This will allow us to drive down costs by maximising automation, and to reinvest savings into developing exceptional educational experiences for our students. To achieve this, we need to build MOOC-style instructional design and unit development know-how. We also need to increase automation and use of learning analytics. In the short-term, we should apply MOOC-thinking to units that attract high numbers of students and that have content that lends itself to MOOC approaches and is persistent and stable over time.
2. Commence developing and offering MOOCs
In order for our MOOC offerings to be successful and sought-after, we need to select subject matter that has high levels of public interest and can be delivered in innovative and highly-engaging ways. We should focus on developing a small number of top-quality MOOCs that will demonstrate a return on investment through enhancing our global brand, driving enrolment of highly-desirable students, and opening options for new products and services. Lessons learned from developing and delivering these MOOCs can also feed back into our conventional offering.
3. A multi-platform MOOC strategy
Acknowledging a clear winner has yet to emerge in the race to develop applications for offering MOOCs, we will pursue a multi-platform approach. We will select and implement platforms that are readily available, require little up-front investment, and are ideally interoperable with other key Curtin information systems. Once Curtin gains more experience with MOOCs, and the platform market matures, we may standardise on a single platform that ideally supports its conventional offerings as well.
4. Explore strategic partnerships
Partnerships bring the risk of diluting Curtin’s control over our brand. Therefore, we will carefully consider potential partners that offer access to effective marketing and distribution mechanisms while enhancing visibility and desirability of Curtin’s brand. There may be other benefits from partnerships such as access to a superior platform not otherwise available, sharing development costs, or leveraging complementary expertise. However, it is more important in the long-term for Curtin to focus on academic partnerships that support delivery in new markets than technology partnerships to support MOOCs.
Where to from here
As a next step, we will develop a plan to advance our MOOCs strategy with clear definitions of scope, schedule, risks and mitigation strategies, and resource requirements. This will be facilitated through a series of sessions with staff from across the University, led by AMBiT over the next few weeks.
As we define our approach to MOOCs, there are two separate but interrelated tracks of activity. The first is applying MOOC-thinking to some of our conventional offerings. The second is offering actual MOOCs. Selection of content, platforms, and partners will happen in parallel.
MOOCs Landscape Framework
Open/Online Specialists: These are the institutions that have specialised in traditional open and/or online education for several years. They have not historically offered MOOCs, but are moving in that direction. They bring certain expertise in offering open content online to distributed students. Some also specialise in consolidating open learning resources from many institutions around the world.
“University 2.0” Institutions: These are new organisations that describe themselves as a new type of university focusing only on delivery of MOOCs. They tend to differentiate themselves by distancing their delivery model from the traditional university delivery model or by offering all MOOCs from source institutions under one brand.
Publishing Companies: These are companies that tertiary education institutions can use to publish their MOOCs to a catalogue alongside others. Individual MOOC units retain the delivering institution’s brand, but all units are available side-by-side from a wide variety of institutions, including elite universities.
Platform Companies: These are companies that offer MOOC platforms in a “software as a service” model. They provide the platform, hosting services, and support for the institution, instructors, and students.
Do It Yourself (DIY) Platform Tools: These are platforms made available online that institutions and instructors can use to upload and deliver their MOOC content.
Open Source Groups: These are communities that have developed open source software that can be obtained for free by an institution, but generally, the software has to be hosted and supported by the institution. In addition, institutions are often expected to contribute to software development.