Experiencing a MOOC

There’s a lot of talk about MOOCs (Massively Open Online Courses) in HE at the moment. institution has signed up to FutureLearn, a consortium of UK HEIs intending to offer courses from mid-2013 onwards. A lot of the ‘talk’ about MOOCs is around how game-changing they could be for the sector. Could they sound the death-knell for traditional teaching and learning? What are the implications for organisational development and change? What would ‘the student experience’ mean when students are co-learners and co-assessors and distributed potentially worldwide? Interestingly, some MOOC students are meeting up in physical locations where they find they’re co-located with other co-learners.

It all seems to be a lot of hype at the moment, with no clear business models (although some are emerging) and few providing accreditation. But worthy perhaps of at least awareness amongst those of us who may have to support any resulting change in strategy, organisation and people’s practice.

I hadn’t been tempted to sign up for a MOOC until the Association for Learning Technology (ALT) began the design of OcTEL, an online course in Technology Enhanced Learning. Even just typing this paragraph is giving me acronym headaches, and I suspect this MOOC may have quite a lot more. But OcTEL is one of the Innovation and Transformation Fund (ITF) projects for which I’m Programme Manager, so it seemed that if I were going to sign up for one, this ought to be it. And it’s being developed through a collaboration of volunteers which offers an interesting model and, I suspect, quite a lot of challenges, for learning design and delivery.

Registration is now open, and the programme starts 4 April, with an introductory period until 14 April, for people to familiarize themselves with the MOOC way of learning and interacting. The course starts in earnest on 15 April.

MOOCs lose a lot of participants during the course; to keep me on track, I thought I’d add an occasional blogpost here – if that’s ok – to share what the experience has been like. You might like to register and join me so it’s not just a one-sided view.

Exchanging ways to deliver greater efficiency

logo-1What are your thoughts on the ‘efficiency agenda’? Lots of hype? Dull stuff about procurement, outsourcing and shared services? Or is there a case for making more effective most of what we do in HE? Hefce’s latest predictions for the sector’s financial health suggest that HEIs will be looking even more closely at increasing efficiency and effectiveness. Organisational development and change programmes are likely to increase as a result, not decrease. Whether ‘efficiency’ is your thing or not, you may find it useful to explore and engage with the emerging work of a new project, funded by the Innovation and Transformation Fund (Hefce/Leadership Foundation), called Efficiency Exchange.

The service has been brought online quickly to start up the conversation with sector professionals on what information would be most useful, but will develop as work in progress over the next year. The intention is to go beyond a website to develop or link with communities of practice in related areas. Even if the topics aren’t of immediate interest, you may know colleagues for whom they are. Please help spread the word!

An online survey is open until 29 March, which will gather views on the opportunities, challenges and themes within the efficiency agenda that are most important to sector professionals.

The findings from the survey will inform a programme of engagement. This will include workshops with practitioners to develop action plans and commission new content.

The Efficiency Exchange project is delivered by Universities UK and Jisc, and supported by HEFCE and the Leadership Foundation.

For more details, contact Ian Powling, e-mail

Or follow the Efficiency Exchange on Twitter – @EfficiencyEx