The island of Capri provided the backdrop to an International MOOC conference hosted by the Federica WebLearning Centre at the University of Naples, Federico II on September 25th and 26th 2015. The event – Where are MOOCs going? The future of Distance Education – took the form of open brainstorming around a series of MOOC-related themes.
Leading experts set the discussion rolling in each thematic area, and then opened up the floor to lively debate with the select group of invited speakers and guests present. MOOCs as disruptive innovation saw Mark Brown (Dublin City University) making a solid case for MOOCs as drivers of education for change. Higher Education should be a public good, shaping citizens to create a socially equitable and sustainable future for all, and MOOCs, in his view, could help educators and policy makers to achieve this. Darco Jansen agreed, though he sees the E.U. as instrumental in steering the process. Catherine Mongenet (F.U.N.) on the other hand, saw the disruption at University rather than social level. Rectors accept the need to implement a digital strategy but the implications for teaching, learning and curricular development are huge, with the role of teaching suddenly transformed from solitary delivery to discussion and sharing and visibility.
In terms of Pedagogy in MOOCs Rosanna De Rosa, the coordinator of EMMA, illustrated the emancipatory power of MOOCs to free content from the teaching process and allow the roles of students and teachers to evolve; towards autonomy and creativity for the former, and towards support facilitation, motivation and support for the latter. In discussion around Learning Design in MOOCs, Stephen Downes (NRC Canada) reminded us of his original concept of MOOCs and the centrality of the learner and the significance of personal and networked learning. Carlos Delgado Kloos (University of Madrid Carlos III) encouraged MOOC creators to take better advantage of the affordances that the new learning technologies offer, and Mauro Calise (University of Naples) stressed the importance of an interface that reflects the idea of platform as hub. Justin Reich (HarvardX) opened the Rebooting research section. Critical of data collection and analysis that simply demonstrates that students who are more active in a MOOC get better results, he urged us to embrace the complexity of the massive, diverse and multi-disciplinary world of MOOCs to experiment with mixed paradigms to understand how learning happens in the online environment.
Class Central, EdX, Futurelearn and Iversity represented the business sector. Current trends for MOOCs include module-like, shorter MOOCs that can be combined to create a complete course, specialist MOOCs with certification, and MOOCs for corporate training.
It was clear from the discussions that it is fundamental to the future direction of MOOCs that Universities rethink / redefine their mission and values statement. The event provided food for thought for the teams from the two made in Italy projects, Federica and EMMA, who closed the proceedings with an internal briefing and round-up session on their next evolution.