by Rosanna De Rosa, EMMA project coordinator, Universita Degli Studi Di Napoli Federico II, Italy
I recently joined stakeholders from a variety of projects, associations and institutions, all with proven interest in MOOC development and delivery, at the HOME conference in Porto (27.11.14). HOME’s mission is to strengthen European cooperation on open education in general and MOOCs in particular, and we were invited to this interactive conference to exchange views and carry forward the MOOCs debate. Delegates were invited to submit a position paper beforehand, illustrating our strategy and future vision for MOOCs. A selection of these papers was briefly presented throughout the conference, providing an interesting stimulus for debate.
Various papers questioned the current nomenclature, one suggesting dropping the term MOOC in favour of Education at scale, and others offered PMOOCs (where P stands for problem-based, participant-driven) and qMOOCs (where Q stands for qualification-based and quality). Larry Copeland, the leader of the Open Education Consortium was amongst those delegates who felt that Europe had the edge over America in the MOOCs stakes, because of the opportunities for a policy-based approach, shared technology, common OER repositories and cross-border experimentation with pedagogy. Pierre Dillenbourg, professor of Learning Technologies at EPFL, stressed the uniqueness of the European credit-exchange system in the form of the Bologna Process and suggested developing this for MOOCs with Europe’s 4,000 universities acting as local examination centres. While some people asked whether MOOCs could help learners to develop 21st century high-order skills like critical thinking analysis and evaluation, Claudine Muhlstein from the ECO project felt that the historically contrasting approaches from North and South Europe – pragmatism and humanism – are now ready to work together.
In the EMMA position paper, I emphasised the importance of a multilingual approach, quoting the Italian Minister for Education, Giannini: “a multilingual Europe is, ideally, a single entity that speaks a variety of languages, and encourages language learning and transfer, thus helping to create new European citizens for our immediate future”. I also shared our vision for a multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary approach to learning, which the EMMA platform is working towards.
At the end of the day’s reflection, the HOME team presented a draft version of the Porto Declaration on MOOCs which delegates were invited to edit in the light of the day’s discussions. The declaration highlighted the opportunities that MOOCs offer for scaling up Higher education to reach wider audiences in Europe and offer the kind of flexible, creative and modern approach to learning that today’s complex world requires. It also conceded that the current reach of MOOCs fails to stretch beyond graduates, and that MOOCs are in danger of being used only as marketing tools by elite universities, promoting the dominance of Western knowledge. The declaration was thus a call to arms to make the most of the opportunities MOOCs offer and reduce the risks. It called for more openness: open access, open licensing policy, and open pedagogy and urged governments and institutions within Europe to support and actively implement the Paris OER Declaration of UNESCO (2012). It also stated that a cohesive and collaborative pan-European response is the only way to achieve these aims. Governments, and the European Commission in particular, need to play an important leadership role in collaboration with the major organisations and Higher Education institutions representing European providers.
The University of Naples (www.federica.unina.it) endorses the Porto Declaration on MOOCs which has since been delivered to the European Commission.