Category Archives: Interview

ECO Learning drives an educational democracy

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The ECO project is presenting and represented in various MOOC and educational conferences, not just in Europe but throughout the world.

ECO project coordinator Sara Osuna travelled to the CIP conference in May in Cancún 2016 to present the status on the 17 ECO Learning MOOCs as well as the progress made on the first MOOCs designed and run by the programmes own eTeachers. ECO learning is on a path of growth towards an expending democratic form of education, where both learning and teaching anytime, anywhere needs to be top of mind.

“The idea is to drive the enrichment of ubiquitous learning and pull down the classroom walls in education, proving that people are capable of learning anywhere”, Sara Osuna says in an interview with Quinta Roo Hoy, a media platform covering the CIP Conference, II Cumbre Iberamericano de Periodismo, which took place between 12 and 15th of May in Cancún, Mexico. Theme of the conference was Channels, journalism and development, the power of internet in Latin America (Medios, periodismo y desarrollo, el poder de internet en América Latina).

Osuna commented during the interview and at the conference on the results ECO Learning project so far: 17 MOOC courses, 100% free, the ECO course portfolio encompassing content from humanities topics to languages, robotics and creativity, in no less than 6 different languages. 50.000 Registered participants so far.

The interview can be read here in Spanish.


In addition she expressed her content with not only these numbers and facts, but moreover the proof that through these Massive Online Open Coomunication modules, education can be accessed and enjoyed by anyone, regardless of the time or place. Anyone interested needs just an email address and internet connection, register and choose the or more courses as they like, free of charge. In that sense the MOOC portfolio is giving everyone the opportunity to develop, learn, close any skills gap they feel they to close for better job opportunity or for the purpose of personal growth.

In other words: we are getting one step closer to eductional democracy.

Is Germany truly e-savvy? Conversation with MOOC designer Sünne Eichler

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A total of 16 MOOCs will be developed by 15 Universities, not only from Europe but also from North and South America. The MOOCS serve as examples and best practices for the targeted 4000 selected teachers. They will be invited to actively participate on the ECO platform and create their own MOOC. Very similar to that of an ECO-system in learning, becoming a leading platform in a few years time for Massive Open, Ubiquitous Learning. What does this really implicate for the teacher? The product of this collaboration of universities, tech partners and partners in communication are the 16 base-MOOCs, a set of modules organized in 5 different overall topics:


2. e-learning

3. Digital literacy

4. Arts and Creativity

5. Computing and math
Ms. Sünne Eichler of Eichler Beratung is responsible for MOOC which will designed and set up 100% for a German target audience. A lot of responsibility to grow the MOOC eco-system in a country that has warmly embraced digital and distance learning.

Can you please tell us more about the content of the German ECO-MOOC you will be launching November next?

“The ECO-MOOC is about E-Learning project management at schools. In Germany some schools

are using already E-Learning and there are a lot of initiatives to support teachers. But very

often they are not sure about the way to handle the project. That is why we are focusing with

this MOOC on E-Learning project management.”

What is the target group of your MOOC?

“Our target group are teachers from any type and size of schools. And we address additionally

student teachers and students qualifying for teaching.”


What can you tell us about the general use of MOOCs in Germany?


“MOOCs are quite popular in Germany offered by some universities and institutions such as

Hasso Plattner Institut, Potsdam. But even companies are starting organizing own MOOC –

mostly in the way of SPOC (small private online course).”


After the launch of your MOOC, will you be promoting the module somewhere in the next

few months?
“Yes, sure. We are working very close with teacher organisations, the state ministries for

education and some universities. And of course we will promote the MOOC in the press and

new media channels.”

What do you think would be the main hurdle for your target audience teachers to embrace the MOOC ideology?


“I think, the most important hurdle could be a technical one: we have to offer easy access to the MOOC and a very good usability. Spare time could be the second hurdle, but we organized that MOOC in a way that offers a maximum of flexibility and a good value of input. The investment of time is about 1-2 hours per week.”

What other MOOC modules would you like to see spring from your e-learning project management?

“I would like to dive deeper into the topics learner motivation and stakeholder management. If we can broaden the MOOC in that way, it would very very helpul for the teachers.”

What is in it for teachers to participate and actually create their own MOOC?

“For teachers the MOOC has three main benefits:

 he /she is getting used to new ways of learning by using a MOOC

 he /she is receiving state of the art knowledge on E-Learning project management

 he /she can exchange ideas with experts and other teachers.”

“Your chances to teach, share and build knowledge are going to expand and there is no need to be afraid.”

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Consortium member Divina Frau-Meigs from the University of Sorbonne and PhD Matthieu Cissel, specialising in MOOCs were interviewed this summer by the UNED-Radio about the added value of MOOCs in the digital learning landscape.

We are talking to Divina Frau-Meigs, Professor at University Sorbonne Nouvelle, one of the partners of this European project and Matthieu Cisel is a PhD student at the Cachan École Normale Supériere, in France.

INTERVIEWER: Matthieu, in your opinion, what is the added value of MOOCs versus traditional courses?

MATTHIEU: “First of all: they are open and allow for a large variety of people with different interests to participate. People who perhaps cannot study because they do not have financial resources or the required time. The format of the open, ubiquitous course as is a MOOC allows them to strike these barriers and do a course, anywhere and anytime. That is for me the added value.”

INTERVIEWER: And Professor Frau-Meigs, what is according to you the added value of MOOCs versus traditional courses?

DIVINA: “Well, to complement Matthieu’s answer, I think the implications of social networks in the workings of a MOOC increase the value of e-learning or distance learning. This is a novel factor of the MOOC that permits teachers to control the subjects and use resources different from those typically used in the traditional learning sphere adding a shared dimension. And as I usually say: “a MOOC without social networks is like a bird without wings”.

INTERVIEWER: What ECO project proposes is totally new and something to take into account: networks joining an open online course, massive and free. How do you see the situation of MOOCs in France, particularly, and in Europe, in general?

MATTHIEU: “There are several countries in Europe creating their own MOOCs but in France there are still less than a 100 as of today. There are for instance a much larger volume of available MOOCs in Spain. I believe it is more of a cultural thing than anything else. We are still getting to know more about distance education and its culture so it is going to take some time to learn the pedagogy, how to make videos and all that.”

INTERVIEWER: UNED leads the European Project ECO, a project that focuses on the analysis and design of MOOCs. There are 24 partners from different countries, universities, enterprises and other institutions, some of them experienced in distance education and others that will have their first contact with these courses. Universities are opting more and more for distance education and, especially, the design of MOOCs.

Divina, how do you see the situation of MOOCs in France, particular and in Europe in general?

DIVINA: “It is true that from an international point of view MOOCs are in an early stage in France. Some colleagues call that “effet diligence” (diligence effect). We are living a period where we need to promote the transition from traditional courses to modern courses. There is not a French MOOC model yet. And I think every country is going to create its own model, a sign of cultural diversity. I believe this is a good thing. But the transmissive model is still deeply rooted in France because it is a very centralized country. For the moment, the French MOOC-model considers this new MOOC initiative as a learning stage with deeply resounding ripple effect in the academic community.”

INTERVIEWER: Do other countries in Europe share this view? Or can we identify different views on the use of MOOCs? It is a new initiative but many countries are going for this kind of education.

DIVINA: “I see it as an opportunity for all countries to make universities moves intro the possibilities of the 21st,, isn’t it? Furthermore I believe the Union´s way of seizing this possibilities is as diverse as its joint cultural and linguistic heritage. Moreover, I believe the smaller countries will be able to adopt the MOOC-way of teaching and learning more easily than big countries, such as France, that are slower in their response to necessary change. But there is a real interest in it and little by little decisive authorities are assimilating the topic of digital and distance learning.”

INTERVIEWER: What kind of resistance against MOOCs have you encountered, Matthieu?

MATTHIEU: “First, a lot of teachers are scared of losing their jobs with this new model. I do not believe this will affect them but the fear and therefore the resitance is palpable. The thing is, it requires the teacher to make drastic adjustments. To make MOOCs you need to be flexible, fast and very efficient. It is a very different culture, it is working in groups, it is all very new… The biggest resistance is that MOOCs require a new way of working, a new organization… that is for me the biggest resistance.”

INTERVIEWER: Divina Frau-Meigs…

DIVINA: “I would like to add to what Matthieu just indicated is the factor of Intellectual property. The fact that for the teachers who are creating MOOCs they have no certainty about what will happen with their material they created. They believe that others are going to seize their knowledge and competences. So, there is a strong resistance against this in France, which has been a flagship for intellectual property. We are pushing ahead with MOOCs, the idea of an exception to intellectual property in education, a right to “re-mix” and the use of Creative Commons licenses, because there are solutions. But France does not really believe in these solutions and there is resistance in the very heart of ministries (of culture, media education, education) in general. So, we kind of know how to create MOOCs but spreading and adopting the model is a different matter that we need to address separately.”

INTERVIEWER: And what is the future of MOOCs, Matthieu?

MATTHIEU: “I am not sure yet. I hope we will create a viable ECO-system of MOOCs in France. The hurdle here is that we as of yet lack a feasible, stable economic model as for the MOOC-modules to offer a certain longevity.”

INTERVIEWER: In fact, this particular topic is being addressed by ECO-learning consortium. Embedding the MOOCs into a stable future economical ontext is one of the objectives of the ECO project, if not, one of the strongest commitments the European Commission isdemanding of all project members to provide a definitive answer for.  

Divina, what is the future of MOOCs in your opinion?

DIVINA: “I think MOOCs themselves are going to evolve and will be further integrated in education. In my opinion there is a clear future for MOOCs in life-long learning.”

“It is going to be difficult from the perspective of primary education, but perhaps, eventually we will make it happen. This is what I say to teachers who are afraid: “This is going to take a weight off your minds, these are the steps to follow. Your chances to teach, share and build knowledge are going to widen and there is no need to be afraid.” But it is a very important change in mind-set and this will be difficult given the fact that there are so many teachers who represent a traditional generation of teachers. It will be easier for the next generation of teachers who are more accustomed to the digital world. Digital skills are new and some teachers still have to acquire them.”

“The response of teachers so far however is promising. After sending out a call for MOOC proposals and we have received over 50 proposals. I think there will be teachers who profit from this chance and there will be others who will not go down that road until they see clearer future perspective.”

Radio Interview “Sin Distancias” #ecoproject

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ECO Project, led by UNED, the National Distance Education University in Spain, is a project financed by the CIP, Competitiveness and Innovation Programme by the European Commission, in which 24 partners, institutions, universities and companies from different countries participate.

Sara Osuna, Senior Lecturer at UNED Faculty of Education is European ECO Project Coordinator.
ECO, acronym for E-learning, Communication and Open Data: Massive Mobile, Ubiquitous and Open Learning is a proposal from UNED coordinated by UNED and run with other European institutions for the European Commission CIP call. ECO believes in a massive educational model, which was granted and approved by the European Commission, after successfully going through all its tests.

INTERVIEWER: Sara, which institutions participate in this European project ECO?
Sara Osuna: We are very lucky to have key European institutions, among them Sorbonne Nouvelle University, in France, the Open Universiteit in the Netherlands, Universidad Aberta in Portugal, Manchester University and Politecnico di Milano, in Italy. There are also universities in Spain, which participate in the project, such as Universidad de Oviedo, Universidad de Cantabria, Universidad de Valladolid, Universidad de Zaragoza, Universidad Loyola, in Andalusia, and UNED. Companies working on social media are going to participate too, along with these 11 universities. These companies are: Tabarca Consulting, Riverthia, ReimerIT, Eichler, Humance, Fedrave, EADTU, Editrain and Telefónica. Finally, guaranteeing all the work carried out by these universities and small, medium-sized and big companies, there are two non-European institutions, Universidad Manuela Beltrán, in Colombia and Universidad Nacional de Quilmes, in Argentina, which in some way are disseminating all this European Project in America.

INTERVIEWER: And, as Sara previously mentioned, UNED is coordinating this project. There are a lot of UNED teachers involved and they are under Sara Osuna’s coordination. Sara, what is the main aim of this project? ECO is an acronym that comprises essential distance and digital education concepts, Sara…

Sara Osuna: Indeed. The main aim of this project is the implementation of MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) in different languages. Partners will be in charge of a new kind of massive, online, open and free educational model. Every partner will design their courses in their own languages and English is the vehicular language in the project. That’s why our training is in Spanish, English, German, Italian, Portuguese and French. It is actually an important proposal to involve every current social communication process, every social media strategy, and every mobile-learning technology with the actual idea of mobile and ubiquitous learning. These are extremely important concepts nowadays and they will be for the future in Europe. That’s how the European Commission has interpreted it anyway, when they approved the project. In short, ECO project puts forward new and innovative ways of building knowledge for educators and trainers of trainers, that is, everyone in charge of educating today and tomorrow’s European citizens will be able to be trained with us in the project.

INTERVIEWER: Some final goals have just been pointed out, but I would like to know more on the duration of the project. This is a medium-term project of three years, which is the duration scheduled for, at least, this first stage. That is a lot of work ahead, Sara…

SARA OSUNA: Yes, three years of intense work. At first, we must analyse and assess the situation of MOOCs in Europe and internationally. Then we will have to design a technological architecture coherent with the connectivist learning approach we have proposed for the different MOOCs in ECO. Our commitment is training more than 50,000 European teachers.

INTERVIEWER: European teachers from all universities and institutions participating in the project, right?

SARA OSUNA: Exactly, but we don’t stop at this because there is a further commitment which is that the 4,000 teachers who get the best scores in the courses designed inside the project, will be provided with a technological platform so that they can design their own MOOCs and have their own students. This implies an iterative process that may cater for educational quality for a large population.

PRESENTADORA: We are talking about digital learning, communication and open resources, about mobile, ubiquitous, massive, open… and free courses?

SARA OSUNA: Yes, free. MOOCs are free by definition. In short, we want to raise European citizens and institutions’ awareness of the advantages of these open resources. Our final goals depend on understanding today’s social changes from the analogue to the digital model, from the point of view of the educommunicative model we have been working on for a long time. We want to integrate ICTs into the whole educational process but we also want to integrate social media strategies that identify with people’s needs today. We are going to collaborate in the building of knowledge of European citizens who need to learn throughout their lives. This is quite an ambitious goal and it is definitely our final goal; a goal the European Union approved.

INTERVIEWER: Thank you very much, Sara Osuna, Senior Lecturer at the Faculty of Education. She is the Project Coordinator of European project ECO and co-director of Social Networks and Digital Learning Master’s Degree by UNED, with Senior Lecturer Roberto Aparici.

Below you may listen to the interview in Spanish.

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