Beyond MOOCs: Sustainable Online Learning in Institutions

Link: Beyond MOOCs Sustainable Online Learning in Institutions (PDF)
Link: Beyond MOOCs Sustainable Online Learning in Institutions (MS Word .docx)

Executive Summary

The key opportunity for institutions is to take the concepts developed by the MOOC experiment to date and use them to improve the quality of their face-to-face and online provision, and to open up access to higher education. Most importantly, the understanding gained should be used to inform diversification strategies including the development of new business models and pedagogic approaches that take full advantage of digital technologies.

The critical discourse emerging around MOOCs is providing an opportunity for institutions to develop a more strategic approach to online learning. This includes enhancing existing classroom teaching practices, promoting institutional reputation and developing new revenue models. There are indications that some MOOCs are becoming more focussed on corporate training, which suggests that they may not pose a immediate threat to the existing pedagogical, revenue or business models of higher education institutions (HEIs). The number of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) will continue to grow with the development of credit bearing courses likely to be a trend.
The findings from this report are summarised in three sections: key themes that have emerged from the MOOC experiment, opportunities that institutions should consider exploring, and longer-term strategic considerations and likelihood that this will happen for institutions.
Three key themes emerge from the MOOC experiment:
i. Openness – new approaches to online learning, including models for scalable provision that may generate revenues, and promote open learning, which goes beyond institutional boundaries through the use of online communities. [Increasing impact & long term, likely for most institutions]
ii. Revenue models – different revenue models taking the established ideas from technology start-ups, such as applying the concepts of freemium and premium offers into online learning, providing institutions with new ways of thinking about marketing and income generation. [High impact & medium term, more likely for institutions looking for new revenue streams]
iii. Service Disaggregation – experimentation with business models that include unbundling and re-bundling of courses and delivery related services, such as offering paid for assessment and/or teaching and support, on top of free online course content. This may have a wider impact across institutions in the future through better deployment of existing resources to add value to customers where there is greatest benefit and to reduce costs through outsourcing (unbundling is already happening independently of MOOCs). [High impact & short term, likely for most institutions]

Institutions should consider exploring a set of opportunities that have been brought to the attention of mainstream education by MOOCs, and experiment with new approaches for developing technology-enabled changes in teaching and learning to improve opportunities for individual learners. These include:
i. Technology options – new platforms and services with different functions, terms and conditions for experimenting with the development of MOOCs and open online provision in institutions, including opening up an existing VLE, partnering with a commercial MOOC platform; or using an ad hoc collection of tools and services that are suitable for innovative experimentation. [Low impact & short term, likely for most institutions]
ii. Pedagogic opportunities – for educators to experiment and evaluate different online learning approaches by developing and using MOOCs that challenge the established roles of learner and teacher and offer more flexible forms of learning and assessment that include community as well as content-based models of learning. For some, experimentation will be at the level of the individual lecturer and for others it may be departmental or large-scale cross-institutional change projects. [Medium impact & medium term, likely for some types of institutions]
iii. Learner choices – developing new and affordable ways for learners to access courses and materials with the possibility of study for credits that are affordable and flexible. A starting point that is not based on existing courses can be a less constraining way of exploring new approaches. [High impact & short term, likely for some institutions]

Institutions are operating in an environment of increased marketisation and global competition, increasing student demand, reduced central government funding and affordability issues for students. Institutions will have to make strategic choices about how they respond to the changing contexts in which they operate; depending on the starting point these will have short, medium and long-term implications:
i. Mission, purpose and values – taking full account of the significant wider changes in HEIs’ business environments that may require institutions to review how they interpret their mission, purpose and values when developing their strategic response. [Variable impact & long term, likely for most institutions]
ii. Strategic directions – using the new opportunities presented by rethinking MOOCs as a useful motivation for institutions to examine their current provision and think about ways in which they can change and diversify. However, failure to recognise the scale of this challenge may well derail any new strategic directions. For institutions with little experience of open and online provision, options for rapid development may be limited to forming partnerships with external organisations with the required capabilities. [High impact & long term, likely for most institutions]
iii. Capability building requirements – reviewing existing in-house capabilities including: technical infrastructure, academic and support staff working practices. If starting from a low base, these will require significant commitment to change and develop, in order to support new business models for online provision. [Variable impact & short term, likely for most institutions]
iv. Business model components – there is an opportunity for institutions to examine their current provision and think about ways in which they can change and diversify to develop new sustainable business models for open online provision that take as their starting point the needs of the learner rather than the interests of the institution. [High impact & medium term, likely for some institutions]


MOOCs and Open Education: Implications for Higher Education

Link: MOOCs and Open Education: Implications for Higher Education (pdf)
Link: MOOCs and Open Education: Implications for Higher Education (MS Word docx)

This report sets out to help decision makers in higher education institutions gain a better understanding of the phenomenon of Massive Online Open Courses (MOOCs) and trends towards greater openness in higher education and to think about the implications for their institutions. The phenomena of MOOCs are described, placing them in the wider context of open education, online learning and the changes that are currently taking place in higher education at a time of globalisation of education and constrained budgets. The report is written from a UK higher education perspective, but is largely informed by the developments in MOOCs from the USA and Canada. A literature review was undertaken focussing on the extensive reporting of MOOCs through blogs, press releases as well as openly available reports. This identified current debates about new course provision, the impact of changes in funding and the implications for greater openness in higher education. The theory of disruptive innovation is used to help form the questions of policy and strategy that higher education institutions need to address.

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IMS Learning Tools Interoperability Briefing paper

Link: (pdf)

The IMS Learning Tools Interoperability (LTI) specification provides a standard mechanism for seamlessly connecting Interoperability learning applications and remote content to virtual learning environments (VLEs) and enterprise portals.

It is increasing in popularity as a method for providing integrations which are not dependent upon a particular VLE.

This briefing paper provides an overview of the LTI specification and illustrates the benefits for developers, VLE administrators, teachers and learners.
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Distributed Learning Environments

Link: Distributed Learning Environments (pdf).

Summary: After a period of relative stability and deeper embedding, the debate about the role and function of the VLE (virtual learning environment)
within the institution is gathering pace again. Many institutions in the UK
are in the process of reviewing their current VLE provision in the light of
changing pedagogical requirements, more administrative integration and the emergence of new classes of social media on the wider web.

In the past, the requirement for deeper integration with other (administrative) systems gave rise to the MLE (managed learning environment) concept. Later, the demand for greater personalisation and the availability of new web tools gave birth to the PLE (personal learning
environment) debate, in which people radically re- conceptualised the notion of a learning environment. During these phases, however, the VLE still remained a dominant force within institutions. This has resulted in a tension between the role of the VLE as a common tool for the institutional community, the desire to make it permeable to the institutional network and the wider web and to allow greater levels of personalization / customization for individuals and institutions.

A number of working solutions are now emerging to address these tensions. This briefing paper will explore five emerging models, discuss the strengths and weaknesses of each and link to working examples and further sources of information.

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