EuroTech Universities session animates debate on MOOCs and future of education at ESOF2014

ESOF MOOC Session-2The session ”MOOCs: a disruptive innovation for technical universities in Europe?” brought together four key leaders in the educational field, in Europe and overseas, to discuss the future of education in light of the changes and the potential future developments of massive online open courses, MOOCs. The EuroTech Universities have been forerunners at producing MOOCs in Europe, producing 23 different MOOCs between them, with several more currently in production and due to be launched in September 2014 or during the course of 2015.

The four panellists of the session – Johannes Heinlein, Senior Director of Strategic Partnerships at edX, Ana Carla Pereira, Head of Unit for Skills and Qualifications Strategies, DG Education and Culture at the European Commission, Patrick Aebischer, President of EPFL and Volker Zimmermann, Member of the Board of IMC AG – contributed to a thought provoking discussion by bringing different perspectives from the point of view of business, policy and universities.

Panelists reflected on how MOOCs could and should help to reinvent centuries old institutions such as the university in times of economic crisis and in light of the potential offered by technology. It is believed that MOOCs offer a great opportunity for universities in continental Europe, given that they are not as dependent on income from student fees as their counterparts in the US. Furthermore, it is believed that the production of MOOCs will influence the ranking of universities in the future. The EuroTech Universities Alliance offers an opportunity to build a common quality brand of MOOCs offer.

The need of a more consistent approach and greater collaboration of European universities, institutions and businesses was highlighted as a key element to driving the development of MOOCs and positioning Europe as a global leader in the future of education.

The panellists agreed that, in Europe, focus should rather be on the content of MOOCs rather than creating an EU platform for MOOCs per se. Speakers recognized the role of EU policy makers in this process through creating awareness of the opportunities and encouraging cross-country and cross-actor collaboration. The European Commission has been working in this direction by supporting initiatives such as the portal OpenupEd initiative, which goes much broader than MOOCs. Recognition of credits, quality insurance and data protection were highlighted as some of the key challenges in the EU.

Blended learning and lifelong learning were highlighted as key streams for the future of MOOCs, with a great potential to attract students as well as employees, due to changes in the labour market and the growing demand for corporate learning. Professors who have already participated in MOOCs at EPFL have seen an increase in demand for their text books as a direct result.