Moocs: Next steps and challenges

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Amara’s law states that “we tend to overestimate the effect of a technology in the short run and underestimate the effect in the long run. ” Simon Nelson, Chief Executive of FutureLearn speaking at Westminster’s Higher Education Forum on MOOCs and technology-enhanced learning: next steps and challenges highlighted how Amara’s Law could be applied to Moocs. So despite the initial hype, Moocs have not transformed education, but what about the long term impact of Moocs? Panellists at this event explored how Moocs had the potential to be catalytic in preparing universities for the future by increasing recruitment, widening participation, engaging academic staff with innovative pedagogies, informing development of distance learning and raising the brand and profile of an institution. In order to be catalytic there are still some significant challenges to overcome. Simon Nelson talked about how Moocs need to become a sustainable business, they need to deliver profit and returns and can’t be seen as an experiment for Universities. Dr Stephen Jackson Director of Quality Assurance at the QAA spoke about the thorny issue of Moocs and credit. We award credit to reward achievement and assess level of knowledge and capability. Do Moocs need to use the currency of HE (i.e. credits) in order to be sustainable?

However, discussion during the second half of the event highlighted how the discussion and hype about Moocs is clouding the discussion about how we use technology effectively and embed innovations and build capacity. I do think that Moocs can help leverage staff engagement with technology enhanced learning. Kassabian (2014) in a review of the impact of Moocs on early adopter Universities found that Moocs have the potential to help engage academic staff in discussions around their teaching practice.

“[F]aculty are now more engaged in discussing pedagogy and learning outcomes and that new teaching methods enabled by MOOCs (such as flipped classrooms), and lessons learned from engaging in MOOCs (such as the value of shorter lecture segments and more frequent testing for understanding), are being applied to residential education in interesting ways.” (Kassabian, 2014)

While we might not be delivering Moocs at City, the lessons learned from other institutions about supporting students on Moocs has helped us to engage staff in thinking about their designs for blended and online delivery.


Kassabian, D.W. (2014) The Value of MOOCs to Early Adopter Universities [online] Available from:  (Accessed: 28.10.14)

Marshall, G. (2012) 10 laws of tech: the rules that define our world [online] Available from:  (Accessed: 28.10.14)

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