Internationalisation, cross-border education and e-learning conference


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A few weeks ago I did a keynote at the internationaalisation, cross-border education and e-learning conference in Nicosia. Here are some notes on some of the other speakers. Michael Gaebel (head of the higher education policy unit, European University Association), gave a talk entitled ‘Trends in Higher Education Internationalisation’. He pointed to a number of useful reports on trends including the e-learning and HE, and argued that internationalisation and digitisation are two key priorities for institutions. He said that there was a wide range of activities around these across institutions and that most did have some form of international strategy, less had dedicated e-learning strategies. A key issue was mobility in terms of quality and the development of student skills. A recent e-learning survey indicates that more and more institutions are developing blended learning and online learning offerings, as well as the development of MOOCs. George Veletsianos reported on some recent studies he has been involved with on learners’ experience and perceptions of MOOCs. The focus was on how students are using social media for scholarship and what challenges arise in new learning environments. Part of the work has recently been published (BJET, 46(3), 570 – 587).


Researchers describe with increasing confidence what they observe participants doing in massive open online courses (MOOCs). However, our understanding of learner activities in open courses is limited by researchers’ extensive dependence on log file analyses and clickstream data to make inferences about learner behaviors. Further, the field lacks an empirical understanding of how people experience MOOCs andwhy they engage in particular activities in the ways that they do. In this paper, we report three findings derived by interviewing 13 individuals about their experiences in MOOCs. We report on learner interactions in social networks outside of MOOC platforms, notetaking, and the contexts that surround content consumption. The examination and analysis of these practices contribute to a greater understanding of the MOOC phenomenon and to the limitations of clickstream-based research methods. Based on these findings, we conclude by making pragmatic suggestions for pedagogical and technological refinements to enhance open teaching and learning.

The results of the studies included the following:

  • Successful learners have highly developed study habits
  • Students take notes, if they take more than one MOOC on a similar topic they combine the notes
  • There is evidence of off platform participation via social media or face to face
  • Online learning is an emotional experience; both in terms of excitement and disappointment
  • Life’s daily routines shapes the way in which people participate in online courses, in other words the courses need to fit in with other activities individuals are involved with
  • Finally, drop out rates are not necessarily negative, some learners choose to only do part of a course for a reason

George, Pambos Vrasidas and I took part in a symposium on ‘design issues and participation in MOOCs’ in the afternoon. Pambos highlighted the following challenges of MOOCs

  • High student-teacher ratio
  • Assessment
  • Less contact with instructor
  • Learning Design issues
  • High drop out rates
  • Lack of a real college experience
  • The increase of Small Private Online Courses (SPOCs)
  • Return on investment 

And he listed the following as some of the opportunities

  • Democratisation of education
  • Providing ivy-league courses to everyone
  • Creating a vast pool of data
  • Marketing and recruitment
  • Making quality education available at a distance for a large population
  • New business models are emerging 

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