Massive reach for online learning

MOOC blog

Online learning has exploded in popularity internationally, helped through the rise of Massive Open Online Courses – also known as MOOCs. These free, online courses, typically produced by world leading University academics, provide millions of people access to high quality learning experiences, all delivered through a simple internet connection.

Since 2012, Edinburgh has been leading digital education and research with MOOCs, exploring ways our engagement with open opportunities can inform our learning and teaching practice for the future.

The impact of MOOCs has been – dare I say it – massive! The University alone reaches almost 2 million online learners through our open courses, reaching all but 8 countries in the world and with an ever-diversifying course portfolio. So far, Edinburgh has created 34 MOOCs, developed by 15 different academic schools, and spread across three external delivery platforms: Coursera, FutureLearn, and edX.

Open delivery of our courses provides a unique opportunity to experiment with ways to integrate rich media and learning from MOOCs within core learning and teaching practice.

  • The incredible success of Introduction to Philosophy – one of Edinburgh’s first ever courses – has sparked wider interest across the School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences (PPLS) to engage with more online delivery, e.g. through video based content in UG in teaching and creation of a new fully online masters programme in Epistemology, Ethics and Mind.
  • The Scottish Elections are fast approaching and impact us all – Understanding Devolved Elections provides a unique experience behind the scenes and following the political campaign leading up to the vote, enabling Edinburgh students to debate issues with peers around the world.
  • Fundamentals of Music Theory was designed as a tool to support new students prepare for their music studies with content now planned for on-demand delivery.
  • Students were involved as digital ambassadors for outreach of Football: More than a Game and a version of Critical Thinking was run to support our Universitas 21 collaboration to encourage U21 universities engage with online learning.
  • As part of the Elearning and Digital Cultures MOOC, the academic team lead a research initiative to experiment with automation of teaching support. Using the social media platform Twitter, Teacherbot was born!

MOOCs have received a lot of media attentions over the years, initially suggesting the end of traditional Universities and later suggesting MOOCs are nothing more than a short-lived hype. But 4 years on, and stronger than ever before, it is clear the benefit of engaging with MOOCs is far greater than just reaching globally, it provides us with reach to impact learning, teaching and research locally too!

Amy Woodgate

Amy Woodgate is the Project Manager for Online Learning Special Projects, including Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). She is based within Information Services, Learning Teaching and Web Services Division.

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