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

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.”