The EMOOCs 2014 conference marks the calendar half-way point between our research seminar in Capetown and the upcoming seminar attached to the OCWC conference in Ljubljana. So it was a joyous reunion for those GO-GN members directly involved in MOOC research this morning in the Rolex Learning Center of EPFL in Lausanne. Fred Mulder is part of the program commission, of course, Bernard Nkuyubwatsi is presenting a paper, Marta Cáceres Piñuel is attending as part of a large Spanish contingent and yours truly is here to listen and learn.
EPFL's Center for Digital Education under the leadership of Pierre Dillenbourg is succesfully establishing itself as a European center of gravity in the MOOC discourse as exhibited both by the turn-out of many influential stakeholders and the unbridled enthusiasm in the opening keynote. Only six months have passed since the first EMOOCs conference here, but in the MOOC galaxy, that is a small eternity. On the one hand, some of the early enthusiasts have been backpedalling recently, on the other hand, the wave is barely reaching mainstream in many parts of Europe (such as my native Germany). Take a look at the research landscape in the conference proceedings.
"Of course, we are not saying it is all great!", said Pierre Dillenbourg introducing the first speaker, EPFL president Patrick Aebisher, intending to set the tone for the coming three days: "It is very difficult, just like any ambitious educational project would be." It became clear during Aebischer's review of the past year's MOOC experiences, however, that EPFL intends to be at the forefront of what it sees as an impending revolution, with a clear commitment to the long haul. This includes a strong focus on Africa, where EPFL has a distinct advantage, being able to offer highly reputable content in both French and English.
The conference attempts to structure a fluid, multi-facetted debate into four broad tracks, with many speakers appearing in more than one: policy, research, experience and business (models). This may serve as an indicator of how all-encompassing this rapidly developing topic is for institutions, policy-makers, practitioners and students in European higher education.
Sessions include everything from hands-on video production tips and problems of certification all the way to panel discussion on mutli-stage governance mechanisms for national and EU policies on open online education. I was quite baffled at the early-morning pre-conference session, to find a lecture hall packed and 150 mid-career academics listening in rapt attention to the do's and don'ts of setting up a studio and organzing smooth production processes vor educational video.