MOOCs and Learning Analytics

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On Wednesday September 24 Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg, Sweden, organized a one-day conference on MOOCs and Learning Analytics. About 80 people from all over Sweden attended. MOOCs have had a slow start in Sweden and the idea was to get inspiration from other countries who are more advanced, discuss the pro’s and con’s of MOOCs and to look closer at the role of Learning Analytics in MOOCs.

Willem van Valkenburg from Delft University described how they started a few years ago and already in their first five MOOCs they had between 15.000-57.000 participants. Now there are some 300 MOOCs developed by Delft. He also explained some of the thinking behind the business model they use. The idea is to attract new students by the MOOCs, have them enrolled in courses which for some of them ends up in taking a full programme at Delft. Another idea is to reuse content developed for the MOOCs as blended learning in the ordinary courses.

Representatives from Karolinska Institutet, Chalmers and Lund University described how they are working to set up MOOCs, the opportunities they see and the challenges they meet. Since higher education in Sweden is for free and universities are not allowed to use their state grants to develop materials and courses which are not really intended for their own students, the financial issue is by far the most pressing one. But, as in Delft, they had a good understanding of the possibility to reuse materials created for the MOOCs in their regular courses.

Paul-Olivier Dehaye, from University of Zürich, gave some most interesting insights into what is new with MOOCs and what is not. You can find his slides here. He bridged the issue of MOOCs and Learning Analytics by discussing different business models, or monetization models, for MOOCs. He differentiated between ten models where, in several of them, the student is the product – e.g. the learning data from the student is of high value to companies (and/or educational institutions). But he also pointed at a business model which turns the focus away from student data. Instead the content resulting from the work of the student is the product. Duolingo is one example, where students translate pieces of texts (news or other items) as a part of their learning another language. The translations can then be sold and finance the development of Duolingo. In other cases the method of citizen science is used. Citizen science is also known as crowd science, crowd-sourced science, civic science, or networked science is scientific research conducted, in whole or in part, by amateur or nonprofessional scientists, often by crowdsourcing and crowdfunding.

I had the task to introduce the concept of Learning Analytics and the LACE project. It fitted well into the overall theme since the learning environments of MOOCs are well suited for collecting all sorts of student data. Other speakers, such as Ebba Ossian-Nilsson from University of Lund when talking about quality issues in MOOCs, also mentioned LACE as an important initiative for the European educational community.

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About Author

Dr Jan Hylén specializes in strategic analysis and has completed research for UNESCO, the OECD, the European Union, and education organizations in Sweden and other Scandinavian countries. He has a background as Director of Research at the National Agency for Education and as a former Special Advisor to the Swedish Minister of Schools. Jan earned his Ph.D. in Political Science at Stockholm University and currently resides in Stockholm, Sweden.

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  1. Pingback: This Week in Learning Analytics (September 20 – 26, 2014) | Timothy D. Harfield

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