The potential of MOOCs to widen access to, and success in, higher education study

Lane, Andy (2013). The potential of MOOCs to widen access to, and success in, higher education study. In: The Open and Flexible Higher Education Conference 2013, 23-25 Oct 2013, Paris, EADTU, pp. 189–203.



Massive Online Open Courses (MOOCs) have become a much discussed development within higher education. Various claims and counter claims about the role and significance of MOOCs are being made, including their perceived role to widen access to higher education in both developed and developing countries. Much of this debate focuses on the philosophical and operational similarities and differences between the types of MOOCs that have emerged to date. In contrast there has been much less discussion about how such courses do, or do not, fit in with existing expectations of, and reporting on, higher education in term of increasing participation rates in higher education, of widening participation to members of society that have not traditionally participated in higher education, and of successful completion of higher education qualifications. Similarly, there has been little comparison of the role of MOOCs with the past experiences of larger online open and distance learning courses operated by ‘open’ universities around the world. This paper compares and contrasts the ways in which current MOOCs and one particular large population online Open University course from a decade earlier have served or might serve those objectives. The paper concludes that MOOCs, like open educational resources (OER), are forcing a re-conceptualisation of higher education study amongst all universities that was previously mainly found in ‘open’ universities and that they should also frame a re-conceptualisation of the measures widely used as part of national and international policy.

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