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MOOCs: A new peak for information technology in lifelong learning

Dr Roger Atkinson
This page is a follow up from a presentation made to U3A's meeting at East Victoria Park, 4 September 2015, to provide participants with the text of the PowerPoint slides, some additional notes, and hypertext ('clickable') links to the main references. You may need to decrease window width to facilitate screen reading.


What are MOOCs?

We skipped past a detailed look at definitions, but this image which was in reserve may be useful as it summarises a number of points that help to define MOOCs. Source: Learning Environments Blog, University of Melbourne.
Diagram: Defining a MOOC - questions

Why I became interested

Undertaking background reading for my regular column IT in Higher Education for HERDSA. See:
Atkinson, R. J. (2014). MOOCs revisited: An Aesop's Fables perspective. HERDSA News, 36(2).
This article sought to classify Australian and New Zealand university MOOCs into 'clusters' based on perceptions about prestige and strength of experience in providing distance, open and online education. We discussed some of the data in the following table.
1. Being among the world's most prestigious universitiesEdX and Coursera
2. Having prestigious experience in online and distance educationOpen2Study and FutureLearn
3. Having a special commitment to open education resourcesOERu
4. Experimenting with an economical delivery frameworkBlackboard Course Sites or in house LMS

Some illustrative Australian examples

How may local U3A groups best use MOOCs?

We looked at three publications (there are many other references available!) that indicate the desirability of adding a locally-based social experience to MOOC enrolments.
The question posed for further consideration is:
Shall we test the proposition that local U3A groups can best use MOOCs
by adding local social experiences to MOOC enrolments?

Discuss a way forward for this group

Discussion of this topic was illustrated with a quotation I titled MOOC thoughts from U3A Network NSW.
The fourth challenge is E-Learning, already available through U3A Online, but which could be more extensively used ... learning online as a group rather than individually can make e-learning more effective. ... Mass Open On-line Courses (MOOCs) ... offered through Open2Study (Open Learning Australia) as well as from international universities, without cost and without formal enrolment or assessment ... can be used as a basis for group discussion. (Browne & Lamb, 2014)
I do recommend reading the full nine-page article by Ronald Browne (President U3A Network NSW, 2010-12) and Ainslie Lamb (Secretary U3A Network NSW, 2008-13, Vice-President 2013-14). After outlining a brief summary of U3A's international origins and development in NSW, they discussed four challenges: will U3A continue to grow?; social inclusion; provision of Fourth Age Learning; and E-Learning.

We discussed some possibilities for creating a number of small subgroups, each to investigate the MOOCs being offered in a particular subject area, for example Australian literature; contemporary or regional economic problems; climate change; etc. Each subgroup could report to a future meeting on their findings and recommendations concerning MOOC integration into local U3A activities. In particular, two participants in the 4 September meeting spoke about their favourable experiences in completing a number of MOOCs from Open2Study offerings. However, the meeting noted that some members would appreciate assistance in getting their Internet hardware and skills up to the speed and level of familiarity that will be needed for enjoyable participation in a local U3A "meetup" formed in order to add a face-to-face social experience to a MOOC enrolment.

Browne, Ronald K. & Lamb, Ainslie (2014). U3A faces the future - the charter and the challenge. Paper presented at U3A Network NSW Inc Annual Conference, Armidale, NSW, 8 May.

Author: Roger Atkinson retired from Murdoch University in June 2001. His current activities include honorary work on the TL Forum conference series, Issues in Educational Research, and other academic conference support and publishing activities. Website (including this article in html format):

Please cite as: Atkinson, R. J. (2015). MOOCs: A new peak for information technology in lifelong learning. A presentation to U3A meeting, East Victoria Park, 4 September 2015.

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