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Fred Mulder talks to us about OpenupEd, the first Pan-European multilingual MOOC initiative, "We started OpenupEd to offer a good alternative to US-based MOOCs by putting the learner rather than the teacher at the centre and by delivering quality learning materials in a wide variety of languages".
Dr. Fred Mulder, UNESCO Chair holder in Open Educational Resources (OER) at the Open Universiteit in the Netherlands and former Rector of OUNL, is leading the recently launched OpenupEd, the first Pan-European multilingual MOOC initiative.
We started OpenupEd to offer a good alternative to US-based MOOCs by putting the learner rather than the teacher at the centre and by delivering quality learning materials in a wide variety of languages. We have included many European countries and also some countries outside Europe, such as Russia, Turkey, Israel and we are open to universities in other countries to join, for which we have received quite some interest already. This initiative is not revenue driven but rooted in the public domain. Moreover, it is deliberately decentralized towards institutions, and has a European flavour building on values like equity, quality, and diversity.
Does OpenupEd provide a platform to run different MOOCs? How many courses are already available?
We don’t have a central platform, the courses run on the institutions platforms that are already in place. We do have a central portal, however, which provides information about the current 61 MOOCs, the common features that hold for those courses, the institutions that provide them, the languages they are in, as well as links to the platforms where the MOOCs are running.
Does OpenupEd provide any guidelines as how MOOCs should be structured?
The MOOCs have to satisfy eight common features, the most prominent being ‘openness to learners’ and ‘digital openness’, which in its combination is both attractive and distinctive. After the launch of the portal, we received an email from some master students at a prestigious university in Portugal who wanted to explore the possibility of having MOOCs from their university under the OpenupEd initiative. It is interesting seeing students becoming an active stakeholder in favour of MOOCs.
How do you choose the universities?
We started as an initiative from the European Association of Distance Teaching Universities which, among other members, includes all the open universities in Europe. If you are a full member of EADTU you can join without any further quality check. If you are not a full member, we have to make sure that you adopt the above-mentioned eight common features, that you are a recognized institution in your national higher education system, and that the quality of the MOOCs is ensured, as well as that the MOOCs operation will be evaluated and monitored. I would, by the way, certainly encourage other European consortia to get on the move with MOOCs, thereby offering an interesting alternative to participation in edX or Coursera.
“We need to educate more people all their lives and we can’t do it using the elite model developed in the past”
Dr. Fred Mulder, UNESCO Chair holder in Open Educational Resources (OER) at the Open Universiteit in the Netherlands and former Rector of OUNL, and Dr. Rory McGreal, UNESCO Chair holder in OER and professor at Athabasca University, recently stopped by Rome to deliver keynote addresses at the LINQ2013 conference.
eLearning Papers has recently launched an issue on MOOCs. What is your opinion about this phenomenon?
FM: I think MOOCs are an interesting phenomenon that gained a lot of media attention recently. This attention can help make OER mainstream in education and get OER in the policies of governments. MOOCs are still in an infancy stage and they can further develop in various ways in the future, but I think they can anyway help reach this ultimate OER goal.
RM: I am very excited about MOOCs. We were involved with the first MOOCs that came out in Canada and George Siemens, one of the founders of the MOOC concept, is one of our faculty members. I have been supporting scalable education nearly all of my professional life and I think the major challenge for the 21st century is how we educate people around the world who are capable of a university education and just don’t have access, which is an issue not only in the developing world, but even in Canada and in Europe. We need to educate more people all their lives and we cannot do it using the elite model that we have developed in the past.
What are the challenges that MOOCs face at the moment?
RM: I think one that has not come yet is the revanche of the traditional universities, but MIT and their initiatives made OER respectable and they are making the same for MOOCs, a real possibility for mass-education.
FM: I think another challenge is to cherish diversity. We should think about how we can serve diversity in terms of language, cultural context, and educational models. There is not a single model that will work for every situation.
Do you think also access and cultural barriers can be other challenges?
RM: The benefit of having MIT or Harvard lead the way is the bigger impact it has on developing countries and it can be a stimulus for smaller universities to do their own. In many cases, in developing countries education is only for the elites, so this new trend breaks away the idea that in order to have an education you need to have an elite system.
FM: In my view it is a mistake to think that you can capture the whole world with US-styled courses in the English language, even if they come from reputed research universities. It’s better to have a collaborative model with universities at different continents to develop their own MOOCs. My concern is to have this at global scale indeed and to have it applied in countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America in different languages and adapted to their own cultural contexts.
Will MOOCs replace more traditional educational models?
FM: MOOCs can have different applications in different situations and some universities might decide to include MOOCs into their curriculum, but I don’t think they will replace a full curriculum. A curriculum is not just a set of courses but rather a coherent program in which courses are related and other components are included as well.
RM: I think it would be difficult, but not impossible. We have the possibility of getting a Bachelor of General Studies solely via prior-learning-assessment or challenge exams at Athabasca University. The possibility is there. As MOOCs develop, there will be numerous career paths: some of them will be MOOCs, some regular courses, some OER, and some with regular textbooks.
So, blended learning is the future. What are the keys for this to happen?
RM: One is the ability to divorce the assessment process from the delivery process. The other big issue is the transferability of your credits so that people’s acquired learning is accepted.
FM: MOOCs will be a challenge especially for open universities. That’s why we started OpenupEd: to offer a good alternative to the US-based MOOCs by putting the learner at the centre and by delivering quality learning materials in a wide variety of languages and with a decentralized model.
If you want to read some more information about OpenupEd, please read this other interview.
Dr. McGreal, in your talk yesterday at LINQ2013 you mentioned that OER should be applied and formatted on mobile devices for M-learning. Why do you think this is priority?
RM: Look around, the world is mobile. It’s not “going mobile” anymore, it is mobile! And yet we are continuing to design our OER as if people have a desktop rather than designing for a small screen, chunking your information. It’s a lot easier to take that and put it on a desktop than the other way around. This is the world we live in, and a lot of educators don’t seem to see it.
You also mentioned that there is a need for OER because we cannot effectively use commercial content. Do you think this can be solved by putting in place the right policy on property rights?
RM: I’m a bit cynical about policies because we have all kinds of policies that we don’t pay any attention to. Policies are often a diversion from doing anything. We can’t use commercial content in designing for mobile devices, and this hasn’t struck anyone yet, they think they have a choice. If you get a commercial e-text, it’ll be in one format, and you can’t switch it to another. There are a lot of people with all sorts of devices and we need to have that capability to adapt from one to the other.
What implications this could have with people with disabilities, for instance?
RM: Again, we have to have these capabilities: text to voice conversion for blind people in particular. These things we need to do and we cannot do them with commercial content. These kinds of restrictions are going to ruin it for educators: we have students in open universities from 60 countries and it’s impossible to negotiate intellectual property licenses with each of them. We cannot use proprietary content on these courses without breaking the law, so OER and Open Education are the key.
And now just a last question for both of you: what is your role as UNESCO Chair holders in OER?
FM: Using the UNESCO chair provides an interesting independent mechanism to promote OER but having the privilege to use the UNESCO label. There are four UNESCO chair holders in OER besides the two of us: Tel Amiel, from University of Campinas in Brazil, and Wayne Mackintosh, from Otago Polytechnic in New Zealand, and we of course would like to expand the number of chairs in Africa, Asia and Latin America. In 2011 we began designing a common plan of action to add value to the OER world. I’m coordinating the Global OER Graduate Network (GO-GN), a network of PhD students and their supervisors from universities in different parts of the world. Currently we have about 15 partner universities and close to 20 PhD students who all will have additional supervision from experts in different countries. The network will meet in an annual seminar where the PhD students present their research plans and outcomes and get feedback.
RM: I am coordinating the OER knowledge cloud, a repository with over 600 referred papers and reports on OER that help students on the Global OER Graduate Network and other researchers working with OER issues to find the information which is full-text searchable. Another major action is the OER University, Wayne Mackintosh coordinates 23 universities members from 6 continents to create pathways for using OER to assessment and accreditation, and Tel Amiel in Brazil is working on K-12 issues.
Call for Workshop Papers
"Computational tools fostering Creativity in Learning Processes" (CCL)
ECTEL 2013 conference: 18 September 2013
Paper submission: 12 July 2013
Learning can be viewed as a continuous iterative cycle through the processes of imagining, creating, playing, sharing and reflection. Learners develop and refine their abilities as creative thinkers. They learn to develop their own ideas, try them out, test the boundaries, experiment with alternatives, get input from others, and generate new ideas based on the feedback and their experiences.
Fostering creativity in learning is increasingly seen as a key direction and focus for pedagogic approaches. Creative activity grows out of the relationship between the learner and the world of his or her educational context, as well as out of the ties between an individual and other learners.
In this workshop we focus on the study, design, development and evaluation of emergent computational tools that aim to leverage creativity in learning processes.
A group of Finnish experts are developping a practical open guide for those who are interested in using virtual worlds and augmented reality technologies.
The wiki-book "Wisdom of virtual worlds and augmented reality" (only available in Finish), tries to answer common questions such as “how can we get started on virtual worlds and augmented reality?” and “how should they be used?” The book aims to highlight the different perspectives and applications of these technologies, in learning environments, in organisations and even as business and marketing tools..
The organisers of the Media & Learning Conference, have announced their first line-up of keynote speakers: Beeban Kidron, Renee Hobbs, Sian Bayne and Aidan Chambers. The theme of this year's conference, which is supported by the MEDEAnet project, is Media Education and Literacy: Equipping Learners for Open, Creative Learning Futures.
This year’s event, taking place on 12-13 December in the Ministry Headquarters in Brussels, will feature Film Director Baroness Beeban Kidron who has spent the last 30 years working in feature film, television drama and documentary film and and is co-founder of the education charity FILMCLUB, the largest cultural programme in UK schools, with over 7,000 film clubs engaging over 220,000 children and young people each week.
She will be joined by Prof. Renee Hobbs who is an internationally recognised authority on digital and media literacy education. Renee is Professor and Founding Director of the Harrington School of Communication and Media at the University of Rhode Island, USA. As the Founder of the Media Education Lab she develops programs that advance media literacy education through scholarship and community service.
Dr. Sian Bayne is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Education whose research is focused on the many ways in which the digital changes and challenges education with a focus on distance education, higher education, MOOCs and museum learning.
The fourth keynote that was announced is Aidan Chambers, well known British author of children's and young-adult novels who has launched his own app Tablet Tales, with which he is beginning to explore the effect on his own work of writing for the iPad.
The conference theme is at the heart of what will be a unique programme exploring the role of creativity and innovation in education and training against the backdrop of dramatic change in how, where and what learners learn.
Media & Learning 2013 is organised by the Flemish Ministry of Education and Training and media company ATiT, in collaboration with the European Commission Directorate-General for Education and Culture.
Ninth International Conference on Networked Learning in Higher Education, Lifelong Learning and Professional Development hosted by the University of Edinburgh.
Keynote Speakers: Professor Neil Selwyn & Professor Steve Fuller
This conference is considered a major event in the international 'technology enhanced learning' conference circuit, and provides a friendly, collegiate context for meeting researchers and practitioners in networked learning. All submissions are peer reviewed, and accepted papers published in conference proceedings
Further details on submission at:
Pre-conference online Hot Seats will run from September 2013 to March 2014: Details of Hot Seat hosts can be found at: http://networkedlearningconference.ning.com/
Call for papers for the Ninth International Conference on Networked Learning in Higher Education, Lifelong Learning and Professional Development. The conference is hosted by the University of Edinburgh, at the John McIntyre Conference Centre in Edinburgh, on the 7th. 8th & 9th April 2014.
Keynote Speakers: Professor Neil Selwyn & Professor Steve Fuller
Please find attached the Call for papers for the Ninth International Conference on Networked Learning in Higher Education, Lifelong Learning and Professional Development. The conference is hosted by the University of Edinburgh, at the John McIntyre Conference Centre in Edinburgh, on the 7th. 8th & 9th April 2014.
This conference is considered a major event in the international 'technology enhanced learning' conference circuit, and provides a friendly, collegiate context for meeting researchers and practitioners in networked learning.
All submissions are peer reviewed, and accepted papers published in conference proceedings
Further details on submission at:
Note: Full papers must be submitted for peer review by Friday 4th October, 2013.
Pre-conference Hot Seats will run from September 2013 to March 2014: Details of Hot Seat hosts can be found at: http://networkedlearningconference.ning.com/
Full Conference Details can be found at: http://www.networkedlearningconference.org.uk/
Interested in the challenges and future of MOOCs? We invite you to join this new online community and become an active actor on this ongoing and vibrant global discussion.
The recently launched MOOCs and Beyond community aims to analyse the role of these massive courses in the educational world and highlight and further explore the differences between the MOOCs learning experience and more traditional ones.
Is there a future for MOOCs in Europe? Will this historical movement in Open Education have a lasting resonance in the digital age? To what extent can MOOCs engage users socially? How well can they promote entrepreneurship education?
Discuss, share experiences and find out more about the possibilities of this challenging learning and teaching experience in the new eLearningEuropa.info free online community.
To join today “MOOCs and Beyond” just click here.