Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) were among the key topics discussed at the recent ELIG Annual Conference – held, this year, in London. Andy Lane, Professor of Environmental Systems at The Open University, revealed that studies show that MOOC students tend to be drawn from the already privileged in society. Those signing up for MOOCs tend to be confident, top achievers; not the poor, and certainly not those who’re unable, for whatever reason, to access the internet.


“There’s lots to be said in favour of MOOCs and other technology-delivered learning – not least that they provide greater access to learning and a wider range of knowledge from different cultures and countries – but technology is not good just because it’s there,” said Professor Lane. “Digital-based learning activities can be inauthentic and not relate well to everyday uses. Moreover, you can now get lots of digital learning materials for free – so what sort of learning materials will people now be prepared to pay for?”


Diana Laurillard, Professor of Learning with Digital Technologies at the Institute of Education at the University of London, endorsed Andy Lane’s comment on MOOCs by revealing that, according to MOOC provider, Coursera, 85% of their MOOC users have degrees. So, she asked, “Why do universities invest so much in free courses for well qualified professionals when undergraduates pay such high fees?”


She suggested that MOOCs have a use for providing high quality online continuing professional development (CPD) for fee-paying professionals, using collaborative learning, user-created content, and peer evaluation but with minimal accreditation. She argued that universities could then use the income, resources and experience from the MOOCs to invest in online teaching and assessment for higher quality and lower cost undergraduate courses – as well as for free, open courses for schools and the wider public.