MOOCs will affect and even transform formal education

Anders Nome is Head of Development for NKS (Norwegian Correspondence School) Online Studies. He has years of experience of online education. Recently he took a study trip to California, where the latest trends in online education were the focus of attention. We asked Anders some questions on developments in Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) in American education.

- My own prediction is that today's university and college sector will not die out, but we will see greater pressure on further education, says Anders Nome. - My own prediction is that today's university and college sector will not die out, but we will see greater pressure on further education, says Anders Nome.

Questions by Torhild Slåtto, NADE (Norwegian Association for Distance Education)
Answers by Anders Nome, NKS Nettstudier

Q: You learnt something new about MOOCs in San Francisco recently. What was the most interesting part?
A: What was most interesting was getting insights into the business models that are coming in the wake of the MOOC trend. Some agents are commercial – such as Coursera and Udacity – while others are non-commercial, such as EdX and Khan Academy. Both categories of providers are concerned with creating models for income-generation. We spoke to both Coursera and EdX and they mentioned several possibilities: payment for diplomas/grade certificates, sale of the best students' contact information to business (optional for the students), licensing the use of course content to other colleges and universities, investment from new partner schools and royalties from the sale of books. A relatively new term was mentioned: SPOC – small private online course. Both Coursera and EdX talk about SPOCs as a possible future.

Individual guidance missing

Q: You know a lot about online teaching. Is there a significant difference between NKS online studies and MOOCs?
A: Both NKS and MOOCs courses contain textbook articles, lectures, exercises and tests. But there are many differences. In all NKS courses students receive individual guidance from a teacher, whereas most MOOCs are based on the students advising each other, while the teacher functions as a moderator in discussion groups and as the one who posts news announcements. All NKS courses have compulsory written tasks, which are graded and commented on by the subject teacher. This individual guidance by the subject teacher is the web course component that is most highly appreciated by our students. Another difference is the working language. We know that many of our students prefer to read and write Norwegian. In addition, most MOOCs so far are smaller than our courses and not eligible for credits.

Much more than hype

Q: May be the MOOC thing is just passing hype?
A: MOOCs are definitely more than hype. They will influence education in several ways. The founder of Udacity,Sebastian Thun, says that in fifty years we shall only have ten global providers of higher education. It is by no means certain he will prove right, but we see that the threat implied in the new trend has created an awareness of learning technology in the top administration of most universities and colleges. Such attention will accelerate investment in technology and the pedagogy linked to other campus trends such as for example ”flipped classroom”.

Enthusiasts versus institutional management

Q: Are we now going to face a massive education 'attack' from prestigious universities in America and Australia?
A: That could well be. We will certainly see a great diversity of courses offered and ways of organizing them. We see, for instance, that the Norwegian Department of Knowledge and NOKUT (the National Norwegian Organ for Quality in Education) are very much aware of the MOOC trend and are quite open about how MOOCs will affect and even transform formal education in Norway. My own prediction is that today's university and college sector will not die out – most of those who are taking higher education for the first time want to attend lectures, seminars and tutorials, that is actually go to a university or college, but we will see greater pressure on further education. While the enthusiasts are excited about MOOCs, the administrations of many American universities are critical of the trend.

Norwegian online schools and SPOCs

Q: What are the opportunities for Norwegian online schools and universities in the MOOC concept?
A: The major MOOC providers are looking for ways of making money so I think that online schools and universities should think about it before they rush into MOOC country. We have to think about why students actually choose us today and why we succeed in cooperation with our partners. As I see it, the MOOC providers' concept of the so-called SPOC (small private online course) is very close to what online schools are offering today. I think our approach has qualities that students are looking for. We can develop models that enable us to meet competition from international actors. But – a simple, definitive answer - no, I don't have that.

The annual EDEN conference took place in Oslo 12-15 June this year
EDEN = European Distance and E-learning Network
400 participants from 45 countries
94 paper presentations, 24 workshops, 25 poster presentations and 10 demonstrations
Main conference theme: THE JOY OF LEARNING - Enhancing Learning Experience, Improving Learning Quality
Matter of discussion: Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) (This article).
One of the key notes: Online education in Norway 1995-2015. Read article...