The [Un]Democratisation of Education and Learning

Littlejohn, Allison and Hood, Nina (2018). The [Un]Democratisation of Education and Learning. In: Littlejohn, Allison and Hood, Nina eds. Reconceptualising Learning in the Digital Age: The [Un]democratising Potential of MOOCs. SpringerBriefs in Open and Distance Education. Springer, pp. 21–34.



OCs have engendered excitement around their potential to democratise education. They appear to act as a leveller and offer equal opportunity to millions of learners worldwide. Yet, this alluring promise is not wholly achieved by MOOCs. The courses are designed to be used by people who are already able to learn, thereby excluding learners who are unable to learn without direct tutor support. The solutions to this problem tend to focus on the course, as ‘learning design’ or ‘learning analytics’. We argue that effort needs to be focused on the learner directly, supporting him or her to become an autonomous learner. Supporting millions of people to become autonomous learners is complex and costly. This is a problem where education is shaped principally by economic and neoliberal forces, rather than social factors. However, ‘automated’ solutions may result in attempts to quantify learners’ behaviours to fit an ‘ideal’. There is a danger that overly simplified solutions aggravate and intensify inequalities of participation.

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