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h1. MOOC : an European view
_Director IT for Teaching and Learning, UPMC-Sorbonne Universités_


Back from the United States, after a visit to the University of Pennsylvania and Drexel University in Philadelphia, and having attended the 2012 Educause conference in Denver, this memo summerizes my understanding of MOOC, an initiative launched by several well known American universities. My main purpose was to understand what is behind this enthusiasm and how it can be translated to European universities.\\

h2. MOOC: a short history
American universities have focused on new technologies and their use for education since their appearance in the late 90s. Since 2002, with the explosion of the Web technologies,  the dream of a full distance education has started to be a reality. The intention of the universities was twofold: to attract new customers far from their traditional recruitment pools and to compete, not only with others universities, but also with private companies, such as Phoenix U., which organized a classical distance learning with great success. The creation of WGU, a pure online university \[1\] is the best example of this intention. Later, the MIT created the OCW initiative (Open Courseware) \[1\] which exposes an increasing number of teaching documents to the world. In 2006, the Khan academy \[2\], not especially intended towards Higher Education, invited everyone to add his own short video (less than 10 minutes in most cases) to explain any point of interest. The contributors are all volunteers. Neither their qualifications nor their legitimacy are controlled.

More recently, a new concept, MOOC (Massive Open Online Courses) \[3\] presented a more ambitious goal. Its aim was to provide a comprehensive education to any public, at world scale, and to deliver an attestation (certification) of completion of study to those who had followed successfully the full course.\\

However one must  define what is underlined under the word “successfully”. The concept of distance learning is quite old. It has been evolving with the technology and the economic conditions. Are the MOOC a breakthrought in education or a new avatar of an old concept? An excellent review about this issue, has been written  by P. Hill \[4\] in Educause Review.

Before discussing further the MOOC, it is necessary to recall the socio-economic context of the American universities, to understand to which problem  this new concept is supposed to answer.\\

h2. The socio-economic context of the American universities
Another reason for the push of technology is that, competition being a key word in the search of clients, i.e. students, technology can be a good argument as well for communication as for education. This is the case at Drexel U., for example, which claims to be always on the front of new technologies.

The American university is in crisis. Registration fees have skyrocketed in recent years and reached intolerable levels \[6\]. The average level of student debt, when leaving the university is at a worrying level \[7\]. Universities are aware of this and are looking for parades. Community colleges, state universities have seen their number of students increase after the 2008 crisis. Some economists predict the bursting of a financial bubble in this area.\\

Technologies are already being used by publishers to respond to this crisis. Contrary to most European universities, American courses are based on books that students are supposed to acquire. Publishers have  massively moved to electronic publishing, with the idea of ​​ lowering the prices, which rises at an intolerable level ($ 1,000 per year per student on average).
MOOC is another way to meet the crisis as OCW was, partially, to meet the cost of publication.

Finally one must mention, in the American culture, the sincere desire to help those in need (donations, volunteering, alumni donations, corporate support, ...) which is the origin of many generous initiatives to spread the knowledge.\\

h2. The initiatives
# A new approach to pedagogy, adapted to distance education without interaction with teachers, given the mass of students, is required. It is called "Flipped Learning", which reflects the fact that the student behavior must become more proactive to help each other, support each other, join together (remotely) in a way that best suits them (community, language, affinity, ...). Hence the importance of social networking tools. These concepts are grouped under the name of "crowd-sourcing".

The discourse about education and pedagogy, sometimes, seems amazing. It addresses ideas that already exist for many years, in US as well as in Europe, about the use of technology in education: see, for instance, what has been done at UPMC \[8\]. This seems, to an outside observer, a little strange because, up to now, the importance of technology has been justified, in particular in the United States, as a push to change the pedagogy. The new concept, here, is the need to process large masses of students, requiring automatic control and monitoring with minimal human intervention. In other words “flipped learning” appears as a revolution in pedagogy, not because it is is more efficient, but because it is needed to handle large numbers of students.\\

All this means that the decision, to go to MOOC, requires to mobilize significant financial and human resources. Classical teaching platforms are not suitable: they are not intended for such masses and are designed to enhance interaction with real teachers. One needs to invent new tools, better adapted to mass education, more akin to CMS (Contents Management Systems) as LMS (Learning Management Systems).\\

American universities, with their considerable resources, have understood that creating a MOOC, requires much more than they can afford. They have assembled in consortia where each university brings some courses. The consortiums are comprehensive enterprises with their employees, officers and funding. edX \[9\] which includes Harvard, Berkeley and u. of Texas began with 60 M$. Its proponents recognize that the business model is not yet defined, each consortium being today supported by the industry. About the purpose of MOOC themselves, nothing is clear. Questioned on this point, the answers from the promoters vary: for some, it is a generous action towards the most disadvantaged, to raise their level of knowledge to be promoted in their company through the acquisition of a knowledge not necessarily directly related to their work. Others, such as Drexel U., U. of Central Florida or U. of Colorado, believe that a purely online teaching is a means to filter the entries to the university directly in second year, at a reasonable price for the students.  This would lower the price of the studies compared to an entry in a conventional first year. In this model the MOOC is no longer free and becomes part of the financial strategy of the universities. Harvard sees it as a means of communication to attract good students and even offer scholarships to those who are most successful.\\

At Educause 2012 a number of them were present:
\-        Canvas \[11\] to which belong Brown U., U of Central Florida ...

\-        Udacity \[12\] which is a company founded by former Stanford University staff members.\\

Other MOOC, such as Udemy \[13\], were not present (or at least I did not notice their presence). The MOOC blooms with different models. The discourse remains quite similar: new pedagogy, new tools, questions about the financial viability of consortia ("all will not survive") and about the use that each partner will decide about the courses made available in the MOOC.
\-         resources requested to implement the solution: platform, server, website ...

\-        necessity to rapidly offer a large range of courses. Each contributor can only bring a few items, considering the work and the requirement to mobilize a staff.\\

We may suggest two alternatives:
\-        Consortiums at a European scale, where each university will provide expertise in its own language. Such consortiums would be a good representation  of the European cultural diversity. A European organization such as TERENA \[19\] could be the technical operator for the servers and the platform. EUNIS \[20\] could act as an intermediary body, a link between the technicians on the one hand, the course designers (academic staff) on the other.

The main challenge remains to solicitate the academic partners. This is a strategical point and universities must take intitiatives very quickly through their own channels (direct links, European Universiites organization such as EUA, LERU,…). The European Community is also a natural partner and leader.\\

h1. Bibliography

\[1\] []

\[2\] [] Western Governors University

\[3\] [] MIT OpenCourseware

\[4\] [] «Online Educational Delivery Models: A Descriptive View » P. Hill (2012) Educause Review November/December

\[5\] [] « Does the American Approach to Information Technology apply to Europe? The cultural paradigm, Y. Epelboin & JF Desnos, Educause (2002)

\[6\] See, for instance, [] « Crisis of Confidence Threatens Colleges », Chronicle of Higher Education May 15 (2011)

\[7\] See, for instance, [] «America's Student Debt Crisis » Huffington Post (2012) August 19 

\[8\] About UPMC, see the  Innovatice colloquiums videos (in French) 2010: []
and 2012: []

\[9\] edX, consortium Harvard, Berkeley, U. of Texas

\[10\] Coursera, consortium lead by Stanford
\[9\] [] edX, consortium Harvard, Berkeley, U. of Texas

\[11\] Canvas
\[10\] [] Coursera, consortium lead by Stanford

\[12\] Udacity
\[11\] [] Canvas

\[13\] a MOOC where everybody is encouraged to bring his own course. More applied than academic courses.
\[12\] [] Udacity

\[14\] Educause (2012) « What Campus Leaders Needs to Know about MOOCs », a summary of the subject
\[13\] [] a MOOC where everybody is encouraged to bring his own course. More applied than academic courses.

\[15\]   Educause (2012) An Educause reference on this subject
\[14\] [] Educause (2012) « What Campus Leaders Needs to Know about MOOCs », a summary of the subject

\[16\] For instance, in France: ITyPA
\[15\] [ &nbsp]; Educause (2012) An Educause reference on this subject

\[17\] «Why online courses can never totally replace the campus experience » P. McGhee, U. Of East London, The Guardian, 19-11-2012
\[16\] For instance, in France: ITyPA []

\[18\] Portal of the French Thematic Digital universities

\[19\] TERENA, the Trans-European Research and Education Networking Association
\[17\] [] «Why online courses can never totally replace the campus experience » P. McGhee, U. Of East London, The Guardian, 19-11-2012

\[18\] [] Portal of the French Thematic Digital universities

\[19\] [] TERENA, the Trans-European Research and Education Networking Association

\[20\] [] EUNIS the European University Information Systems Organization\\ \\