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Innovating Higher Education in Australia and World-wide

Let’s get cracking…

…revise pages 186-206 of Chapter 7 and really get your head around the theory in the text. Then read this report reviewing Massive Online Open Courses – or MOOCs – and how they ignited changes in the Higher Education industry.

So, to summarise…

Online education has been around forever, but MOOCs, which are subjects offered fully online for free, have only been around for a few years.  At first, they went ballistic.  Millions of people enrolled in subjects offered by elite universities, which they never could have attended in person, and got access to the knowledge of world-renowned academics.  Speculations about the death of traditional Higher Education were made, and it seemed like the world had changed forever.  Again.

It seemed that students would no longer pay as much for education.  They would just enrol in free MOOCs, pay a bit extra for accreditation, and become graduates of elite universities.  All other university staff would have to look for another job.

Then things settled down a bit as MOOCs problems became apparent.  MOOCs’ tiny completion rates (around 5% for many subjects) and stories of plagiarism reduced a bit of the enthusiasm.  Also, it seemed like a lot of MOOCs were not very innovative and therefore not very attractive: they were just online versions of traditional content delivery, which is not very inspiring or engaging.  It is actually the non-elite universities who do a better job.  Those universities have had to attract students not with their reputation but with their practices.  They have therefore developed great online delivery practices over the last two decades.

But even with the initial enthusiasm dying down, the benefits of MOOCs cannot be denied, and they appear all over the world: The World Bank Group offered six MOOCs designed to meet the learning needs of both development practitioners and interested citizens, on topics of universal interest such as climate change, PPPs, financing for development, and citizen engagement.  These MOOCs were taken by more than 180,000 participants from 190 countries around the world.  The University of New South Wales launches MOOCs to explore disability rights and issues of access and inclusion, and the MOOC pioneer giant, Coursera, launched the first MOOC-based Master’s degree in data science.

Evidence on the benefits of MOOCs is piling up.  They benefit the universities that provide them by allowing them to test their own teaching methods.  They benefit students by enhancing their existing careers without the need to take time off work or travel to campus.  They can be more engaging than traditional teaching models of long 2-hour lectures.  They refresh students’ knowledge of key concepts and provide essential skills. 

Being a new industry (or a new industry sector), MOOCs undergo a lot of change themselves.  Coursera’s move from individual courses into a whole Master’s program mentioned above is one example.  EdTech gives another example: moving from the space of specialised education delivery into the space of social media.  More changes are expected, as students become more sophisticated in their ways of cheating in MOOC assessments.

No doubt, if you have not heard of MOOCs before, you will be hearing a lot more about them now…


Some issues to notice and pay particular attention to here are…

  • Categories of organisational change
  • Overcoming barriers to change
  • Stress
  • Innovation variables
  • Idea champions
  • Change agents

Consider the following questions for discussion…

  1. Two main types of organisations mentioned in this post: universities and MOOC providers.  Which categories of cha.nge affecting each of them can you identify in this post?  Have a look at Figure 7.1.
  2. Your textbook mentions a few causes of resistance to change 196-197.  Which ones do you expect to operate in each of the organisations mentioned? 
  3. The textbook also mentions techniques for overcoming resistance to change (pp. 197-198, and Table 7.1).  Which ones would you have employed in each organisation?
  4. How likely do you think the change in the organisation is to result in employee stress?   Which of the techniques to reduce stress among staff suggested on pp. 200-201 do you think are the most appropriate?
  5. Which of the innovation variables presented in Figure 7.3 do you think are prominent in the organisations mentioned?  How would their presence (or absence) affect the change introduced by the rise of MOOCs?