At Universidade Aberta (UAb.pt) we value each innovative way that allows us to close the gap between people and academic life, integrating it in the dynamics of society. In the current context of scarce resources and of a growing need to capacitate people, Massive Open Online Courses, as a development of the ideals of open education and of generalized access to knowledge, offer a tremendous potential to pursue that vision and that mission.
Aware of this fact and faithful to its innovation creed, UAb.pt has decided to join a dozen other prestigious European universities and launching the first pan-European initiative on MOOCs, led by the European Association of Distance Teaching Universities and with support of the European Commission (www.OpenupEd.eu). However, UAb.pt went a step further than its partners and became the first university in the world to develop a specific pedagogic model for MOOCs.
MOOCs offered by Universidade Aberta are designed around the four main pillars of UAb.pt’s virtual pedagogical model: learner-centeredness, flexibility, interaction and digital inclusion. They combine autonomous and self-directed learning with a strong social dimension and they articulate the flexibility that distance online learners need with the pacing necessary to help them get things done. They also make learning available to as many people as possible, bringing these people into the digital online environment, where a crucial part of modern life happens, thus helping curb the digital divide.
When designing an innovative model for our MOOCs, we looked at the experiences that have been carried out by others in developing and deploying these courses. Our model for MOOCs incorporates elements from existing MOOCs but adds other relevant aspects that derive from our experience with online learning and its integration in the larger context of UAb.pt’s virtual pedagogical model, as well as the work that has been done regarding open educational resources and open educational practices. MOOCs in this pedagogical model are labeled iMOOCs, with their focus on individual responsibility, interaction, interpersonal relationships, innovation and inclusion.
Access and Participation
- Courses are open to everyone who wants to participate.
- Registration is required for publishing in the institutional spaces but all course contents are accessible to anyone.
- Learning is learner-centered and based on the realization of activities.
- Learning should be evidenced through the creation of artifacts (texts, videos, presentations, slidecasts, mind maps, mash-ups, etc.), freely accessible online, that demonstrate the learner’s knowledge and competencies regarding the material studied.
- The learning process combines autonomous self-study and reflection with interaction with other participants in an open social context. Participants are expected to take an active role in and be responsible for their own learning, but also to actively engage in helping build a supporting learning community.
- Learning support rests in the learning community, through collaboration, dialogue, peer feedback and active engagement from participants in the learning process.
- Formative assessment can take the form of self-correction tests and also of peer feedback regarding the artifacts produced in the learning activities.
- Courses start with a “bootcamp” module, that can last one or two weeks, meant for participants to get acquainted with the spaces, tools and services, as well as with the processes of work and communication that will be used in the course.
- Although there is a central place for the course (website, wiki, blog, LMS, etc.), where all relevant information is provided (content, resources, schedule, instructions, etc.), most of the work and interaction should benefit from a networked learning perspective, whereby students use their own personal learning environments to manage their learning, publish their artifacts and engage in the conversation with other participants.
- A small team of collaborators can be used to support the implementation of UAb.pt’s iMOOCs – gather relevant information to be used to monitor and perfect the ongoing process, serve as community facilitators, monitor social or information networks for course related content, elaborate weekly summaries, etc.
- Resources provided as a starting point for the realization of the activities are licensed as Open Educational Resources or freely available on the Internet.
Certificate of Course completion
- Graded assessments are included for participants who want to receive a certificate of completion of the course. In this case, at least two of the artifacts produced as evidence of learning by participants will be assessed and graded through a peer-review system – those who wish to participate in the peer-review assessment will grade the artifacts produced by 3 other participants and have their artifact graded by three other participants. The final grade will be the average obtained in the 3 grades given. E-portfolios can also be used for grading purposes where they are considered adequate. The assessment follows the same peer-review procedure. Every assessment will be based on a detailed rubric provided by the professor or professors leading the course.
- UAb.pt’s iMOOCs may offer participants the possibility of obtaining formal credits, for a fee, after the completion of the course. Those credits (ECTS) will be awarded following an evaluation by a professor or tutor comprising the two (or more) graded artifacts and an e-portfolio presented by the participants with the most relevant elements of their work in the course. This can be combined with a final, face to face exam when deemed adequate.
António Teixeira e José Mota