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Weekly Roundup: Dementia MOOC, UNESCO and More Opportunities and Challenges

Welcome. Here’s your roundup of MOOC News for June 30, 2013

MOOC Roundup

Justin Jensen via Flickr

The University of Tasmania in Australia is offering a MOOC titled Understanding Dementia for everyone from health care professionals to policy makers to family caregivers.  11 weeks, starting July 29. They send in this writeup on the dementia MOOC:

Covers all aspects of dementia including basic brain anatomy, pathology, dementia research, risk factors, symptoms, diagnosis, medical management, living with dementia, progression and staging, palliation, behaviours and therapeutic approaches. The content is delivered by 12 experts in the field of dementia including neuroscientists, health scientists, clinicians, dementia care professionals and people with dementia. Participants will have an opportunity to engage with the material via video clips, activities, scenarios and quizzes (no assignments or exams). Furthermore, they will have an opportunity to meet an international network of peers online to discuss the key issues surrounding dementia.


Educators who want to learn more about open education resources, copyright, and creative commons licenses should check out Open Content Licensing for Educators (OCL4Ed) from the UNESCO OER Chair Network. September 4-18. According to the information page:

This workshop will:

  • Reflect on the practice of sharing knowledge in education and the permissions educators consider fair and reasonable;
  • Define what constitutes an open education resource (OER);
  • Explain how international copyright functions in a digital world;
  • Introduce the Creative Commons suite of licenses and explain how they support open education approaches;
  • Connect with educators around the world to share thoughts and experiences in relation to copyright, OER and Creative Commons.

We’ll soon have yet another platform to add to our MOOC Around the World list. The French telecom Orange plans to launch it’s own French-language platform by the end of the year. (Thanks to Audrey Watters for cluing us into this one.)

More MOOCs for high schoolers, this time from NewsCorp’s Amplify. AP Computer Science is two semesters of prep for the April exam. No start date announced. For free to individual users, and customization for your class is available for a fee.

As always, we’re interested in the growing use of MOOCs for employee training. (In fact, tomorrow’s article will be a profile of a very interesting example of that from India.) The Pakistani company Adamjee Life is starting a virtual corporate education program called Adamjee Life Academy using materials from, the provider of MOOCish free online education. One interesting aspect of this that I suspect we’ll see more of is that applicants and employees with completion certificates from Saylor will get “preference,” presumably in hiring and promotion, though that isn’t explicitly stated.

This isn’t exactly news, but our contributors are amazing. The latest example is the weekly podcast series started by Jonathan Haber, the man behind the Degree of Freedom One Year BA project and a regular reviewer for us. His weekly podcast has so far included interviews with Anant Agarwal, President of edX, Andrew Ng, co-founder of Coursera as well as MOOC instructors and students involved with their own self-propelled education. The podcast is available on iTunes.

Speaking of friends of the site, the people at SkilledUp work hard putting together collections of online educational resources, some paid, some free. MOOCers should check out the learning hub they call OpenU, which collects all the free online education materials they can find in several different subject areas. The Poli-Sci page, for example, lists 9 MOOCs, 17 other open courses and 5 free textbooks.

In case you were still wondering why online education might be important, check out a new study from Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce. “Job Growth and Education Requirements Through 2020” finds that:

  • There will be 55 million job openings in the economy through 2020: 24 million openings from newly created jobs and 31 million openings due to baby boom retirements.
  • By educational attainment: 35 percent of the job openings will require at least a bachelor’s degree, 30 percent of the job openings will require some college or an associate’s degree and 36 percent of the job openings will not require education beyond high school.
  • STEM, Healthcare Professions, Healthcare Support, and Community Services will be the fastest growing occupations, but also will require high levels of post-secondary education.
  • Most jobs will require some type of post-secondary education, and individuals that only possess a high school diploma will have fewer employment options.
  • Employers will seek cognitive skills such as communication and analytics from job applicants rather than physical skills traditionally associated with manufacturing.
  • The United States will fall short by 5 million workers with postsecondary education – at the current production rate – by 2020.

I want to finish up by pointing to two pieces of commentary together this week. First, in The Chronicle of Higher Education reporting on a new public awareness survey about MOOCs, Greg Schneiders of Prime Group consulting firm made this interpretation based on the data:

Based on the survey’s findings, Mr. Schneiders said that MOOCs would not be the death of traditional higher education. He said the survey had revealed that MOOCs were causing disruption in higher education more akin to the recent technological disruption in the retail sector than in the travel industry.

“Travel agents largely went away. Retail didn’t,” he said. “The difference being that there was something about the bricks-and-mortar retail experience that is different from buying stuff online. Online purchasing became another part of retail opportunity but not a complete replacement, and it looks like, based on this survey, that retail is the better analogy than travel.”

Sounds reasonable. But I wouldn’t necessarily take much comfort from that if I were a university administrator, because, while the bricks-and-mortar retail sector survived, many individual retailers didn’t.

Then there’s this from Clayton Christen of “disruption” fame in an interview with The Economist:

Historically there has never been competition on the basis of price. Colleges would compete by adding professors, enhancing programmes or building nicer facilities. So they competed by making institutions better. This initiates retribution [from other colleges] which make things better and better. And every step adds cost. So the cost of higher education has increased faster than healthcare. And there just isn’t any more space in the budget to do this. So this year you are seeing, in a fixed cost environment, that colleges need to fill all their spaces. And there are fewer people applying. So this year for the first time there is real competition on price. For online universities, like Liverpool and the University of Phoenix, if prices drop by 60% they still make money. But for the vast majority of traditional universities, if the prices fall by 10% they are bankrupt; they have no wriggle room. So I’d be very surprised if in ten years we don’t see hundreds of universities in bankruptcy.

That’s pretty much how I see things, too. I’m always surprised by commentary that dismisses MOOCs and their potential impact on the grounds that campus-based education is still valuable (see the Georgetown U. stats above) and that a lot of people will pay for it. That’s framing it as an yes/no all-or-nothing question when the marketplace is going to answer a different question: Not “Will people pay for it?” but “How many people will pay for it?” Probably fewer than are paying for it right now and potentially too few to support every university and college that’s around right now.

That’s all for this week. If you’re new to our roundup, our favorite thing to include is MOOCs like the examples above that fly under the radar. If you know of one, send it in. In the meantime, to get this news roundup in your email box, be sure to subscribe to our newsletter.

Robert McGuire (52 Posts)

My content marketing services firm provides all-in-one external staff solutions for companies looking to grow their business through thought leadership. I started MOOC News & Reviews in 2013 out of a fascination with the economic, demographic and technological forces impacting edtech, online education and higher education, and I wanted to provide a forum for serious discussion of this new phenomenon. I love building communities of writers engaging in lively critical dialogue about emerging issues.