Education Spain , Madrid, Monday, June 24 of 2013, 18:13

Massive Online Open Courses could revolutionize university education

This is one of the conclusions drawn from research done by eMadrid, a project coordinated by the Universidad Carlos III of Madrid (UC3M)

UC3M/DICYT Massive Online Open Courses (MOOCs) could revolutionize current university teaching. This is one of the conclusions drawn from research done by eMadrid, a project coordinated by the Universidad Carlos III of Madrid (UC3M), which gathers the main groups doing research on Technology Enhanced Learning, and which has just held a conference aimed at analyzing the future of this type of teaching.


MOOCs are linked to the appearance of digital culture in all the areas of our lives, from the way we listen to music to the way we take photos, read the newspaper or watch movies. “Before, you had to have a radio, and a camera, go to the newsstand to buy the newspaper or go to the cinema, but now there are applications that enable us to do everything digitally,” said the coordinator of the eMadrid network, Carlos Delgado Kloos, during the opening of this conference, dedicated to the transformational effect that the technology of MOOCs has on education; it was held on the Leganés campus of the UC3M, and had over two hundred registered participants.


This disruptive process, in which technology is continually transforming our daily lives, also affects the world of teaching, which is faced with the dilemma of having to adapt to this new educational model, characterized by massification and progressive personalization of the contents being taught, or remaining faithful to its traditional model of lecture classes. Faced with this scenario, various questions arise: How will new technological developments affect Higher Education? Will teaching continue to be done in person or will it be done online instead? Will other educational methods arise? Will syllabi disintegrate into small, rapidly consumed pieces? Who will be responsible for certifying studies and evaluating which are the best teaching tools? Will there be new alliances among institutions? What will the university’s role be? And the professor’s?


Higher education and, especially, the university will have to try to respond to these questions and adapt to these new times, where new technologies, accessibility, mobility and a new type of social interaction through networks are becoming are taking on a major role. According to the researchers, MOOCs are democratizing education, enabling hundreds of thousands of students to sign up for these open courses, because they only need access to internet to do so. “This is not about replicating a lecture class online, because that can be done using a video; rather it is about choosing the parts of the educational process that can be implemented with these platforms, keeping the figure of the professor, who continues to be necessary in this context,” explains Carlos Delgado Kloos, who is a tenured professor in UC3M’s Telematic Engineering Department.


New spaces


One of the consequences of the appearance of MOOCs is the “deterritorialization” of the educational process. This is shaking up the key role played by universities’ geographic proximity when enrolling students, which, according to the researchers, begs the question of whether equalizing the possibilities of access to the most important universities and the less renowned won’t be detrimental to the latter. One way to avoid this risk is for institutions to work together to form joint platforms where they can offer MOOCs; in Spanish, among other platforms, Miríada X and UniMOOC can be found. In the United States students can use Udacity, Coursera and edX.


The eMadrid network is a program of activities among research groups subsidized by the Autonomous Community of Madrid, which promotes R+D+i Technology-Enhanced Learning. The project is coordinated by UC3M in partnership with the Universidad Autónoma of Madrid, the Universidad Complutense of Madrid, the Politécnica of Madrid, the Universidad Rey Juan Carlos and the UNED (National Distance Learning University). In addition, other universities and companies from the sector also participate in the project. This year the eMadrid network held its IV Conference on June 13th and 14th on UC3M’s Leganés campus. Titled “MOOCs, the transformational effect of technology on education”, this conference presented a panoramic view of Technology Enhanced Learning and its evolution.