Thursday 16 January 2014

Challenges for conceptualising #MOOC for #vulnerable learner groups

With the latest EU MOOC platform ( being launched late 2013, the relentless MOOC roll out keeps on going. When a corporate MOOC platform is rolled out, the type of learners targetted by such a platform is open to the MOOC provider, but when an EU platform is rolled out, policy becomes important to ensure social equality, especially policy towards including vulnerable learners. Some of us with an interest in vulnerable learner groups (= those learners at risk of sliding into poverty, or already residing in a poverty position), took the opportunity to collaboratively write a paper highlighting some of the challenges that might be faced. All of us authors also tried to add possible solutions to these challenges, but the proof of the pudding is of course in the eating, so lots of research still needs to be done.

The paper will be published in the EU papers, but in anticipation of that, sharing the draft via Academia here. It is called "Challenges for conceptualising MOOC for vulnerable learner groups". All of us authors as mentioned in the paper: Michael Sean Gallagher, Ronda Zelezny-Green, Laura Czerniewicz, Stephen Downes, Agnes Kukulska-Hulme, Julie Willems and myself (Inge de Waard).

During the upcoming 10-12 Feburary eMOOC2014 MOOC stakeholder summit in Lausanne, Switzerland this collaboratively written paper will be discussed with MOOC providers from all realms (academics, corporate MOOC providers - all will be there: Coursera, EdX, FutureLearn, IMC...). A nice opportunity to get an idea of the interest by all stakeholders, the status of learner profile attention (specifically vulnerable groups) and overall trains of thought. 

Abstract: This exploratory paper picks up elements from the European Commission’s educational vision and philosophy behind Opening up Education, the resulting initiative of the MOOC platform and takes this as a starting point to look at potential challenges for developing MOOCs that include vulnerable learner groups. In order to align the future conceptualization of MOOCs with the vision and philosophy of Europe, potential tensions of contemporary and future education are listed. The current dichotomy of xMOOC and cMOOC are used to mark some of the unexplored MOOC territory. Practical answers to contemporary, ICT supported educational challenges are provided as options to fuel the debate. The challenges and options for future online education initiatives are based on insights and ideas of international scholars and researchers reflecting on potential barriers for learners and online education. This paper aims to stimulate discussion of the potential for new educational technologies to ensure social inclusion for virtual and physical vulnerable learner groups.

The paper builds upon previous discussions and looks at:
  • Digital and social exclusion(s)
  • Increasing diversity of learner groups
  • Formal and informal learning
  • Local versus global
  • North-South postcolonial tensions
  • Ubiquitous social technology and infrastructure
  • Individual learning versus networked learning
  • Closed versus Open Educational Resources
  • Digital identity
  • Learner access and success
  • Global communication needs versus language barriers
  • Possible future strategies

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