As we preluded in October last year, WUN stepped into the world of MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) in late March with the launch of the Globalizing Higher Education and Research for the 'Knowledge Economy' course taught by Professor Susan Robertson of the University of Brsitol and Professor Kris Olds of the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
The course, offered through Coursera, is designed to examine an array of issues related to the globalisation of higher education and research. The main objective of the course is to enable students to better understand how and why universities are engaged in the globalisation process, as well as what the key implications of this development process are.
Globalizing Higher Education and Research for the ‘Knowledge Economy’ is designed to help students better understand some of the complex changes worldwide higher education systems are undergoing. Universities and higher education systems worldwide are being transformed by new and changing actors, practices, programs, policies, and agendas. From notions of 'global competency' and 'international branch campuses,' to ever more common perceptions that international collaborative research is a desirable objective, through to the phenomena of bibliometrics, rankings and benchmarking that are framed and operate at a global scale, contexts are changing.
Our colleagues at the University of Wisconsin-Madison recently sat down with Professor Kris Olds and Professor Susan Robertson to learn more about the joys and challenges of devising a transnational MOOC:
Q: Recently, people have been paying increasing attention to MOOCs. You also have a blog, GlobalHigherEd that explores the many aspects of MOOCs. What do you feel is the next step or direction for MOOCs in 2014-15?
Olds: First, I think we'll be seeing a more realistic discussion about what MOOCs are good and not good for. They are not the solution to the many fiscal and access challenges some had hoped they would be, and yet MOOCs are serving a wide array of expected and unexpected roles in, for example, the transformation of professional development, alumni relations and personal enrichment.
Q: How has your partnership created new insights or questions?
Robertson: The University of Bristol has, over the years, had a strong engagement with UW-Madison via the Worldwide Universities Network. And in fact that is when Kris and I first came together to collaborate on mapping and making sense of dramatic changes taking place in universities as a result of global, regional and national processes. This previous history has been hugely beneficial to working together on this project as we have developed a way of working over distances — through Skype calls, phone calls, sketching out ideas and moving them backward and forward — which also means that we trust each other's judgment.
Q: What has been the most challenging or surprising part of creating and delivering a MOOC?
Robertson: Perhaps the most challenging, but also most engaging and stimulating for me, is to develop a way of engaging with the students from around the world in an accessible way, but which has a strong sense of the research and scholarship that is informing our analyses. The other has been to try and imagine the student's journey through the ideas, and how to build from one week to the next. Now, that is not a new idea when teaching students. That is what a great course does. But we have to put a great deal of thought into the range of exercises that will engage students who themselves will very likely range too in how much they want to put into their learning experience with us.
Olds: We made a decision, from the start, to create the content from scratch. The positive aspect of this decision is that what you see reflects purpose-built content — not some transformed old lecture notes or slides for the digital era. We wanted to see what we could create that is ideal for this platform.
Q: What do you hope that participants take away from your MOOC?
Robertson: We hope that the students will take away a truckload of questions that they did not have when they started, and that they have been on a ride that has been stimulating, provocative, has sometimes tested their comfort zones, and that they think differently about the trends and issues at stake. So much is changing in the higher education sector that deserves a wider and more global discussion and debate. The students insights will matter, and their voices are more likely to be heard, when they can bring with them a more informed view.
Professor Susan Robertson and Professor Kris Olds collaborate on the WUN project Global Regionalisms, Governance and Higher Education and edit the Global Higher Ed blog.
This story was prepared using content drawn from the University of Bristol and the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
For more information:
Nicholas Haskins, General Manager, Worldwide Universities Network: E: firstname.lastname@example.org | T: +61 2 9036 7219