MOOCs in Europe: Important new report

imgres12diflanguagesThe European discussion on MOOCs is – for various reasons – quite different than the North-American one. This is one reason why this first broadly comparative European report on MOOCs ought to be read carefully. It was launched on March 3rd, 2015. See the executive summary below. Download the entire report from here.

First, the approach and phenomenon was launched in the US, with trials and early errors duly made and noted. As the next stage MOOC development goes global one is likely to see institutional issues and barriers coming to the surface in the discussions and approaches. Second, the European approaches reflect the “public service” philosophy and standards commonly found at institutions of higher learning. As seen from that angle, the MOOCs phenomenon may be not so much an aspect of combatting increasing costs of education as a meaningful tool to overcome institutional and nation-state barriers in an increasingly globalized and networked education world.

Here is the Executive Summary:

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) have continued to attract considerable media coverage as governments and universities respond to the open and online education movement. Three years after the MOOCs began its rise, it is clear that the HE institutions in the EU are gaining speed in this movement.

This report on MOOCs intends to contribute to literature on MOOCs in Europe. Its specific aim is to present data on the perception and objectives of European higher education institutions on MOOCs and the main drivers behind the MOOC movement. In addition, the report makes a comparison with similar studies conducted in the United States in 2013 and 2014 and to data produced by the European University Association (EUA) between October and December 2013. The report made clear that involvement is still increasing, but also that arguments to get involved differ from those in the US.

The main source is a survey conducted by the project HOME – Higher education Online: MOOCs the European way, partly funded by the European Commission’s Lifelong Learning Programme. The survey was conducted in October – December 2014. In total 67 institutions responded out of 22 European countries representing in total about 2.8 millions of students.

Institutional MOOC involvement

Out of participated institutions 71,7% of the institutions has a MOOC or is planning to develop one. While in the US the number of institutions having a MOOC or planning to introduce them has decreased from 14,3% to 13,6%, in Europe it has increased from about 58% in EUA study to 71,7% in this study. This confirms the EUA statement that ‘interest in MOOCs has far from peaked in Europe’. The results of this survey are comparable with the survey from 2013 from EUA. This indicates a steady, but not revolutionary increase in MOOC involvement and opinions during this last year.

Throughout the report the results of the institutions already offering MOOC next to all respondents are discussed to counteract for possible bias. In general only small differences between both groups are observed.

Validating definitions of what’s a MOOC

It is important to note that MOOCs remain relatively poorly defined. To be able to make assertions about MOOCs, it should also be clear what we mean by a MOOC. This survey is used to shed more light on the importance of each MOOC letter.


A MOOC differs to other open online courses by the number of participants. According to a large majority (71,6%) “MOOCs should provide a sustainable model for the mass”. In addition 50,1% finds it (highly )relevant for their institution that “MOOCs must be designed for massive audience”.


MOOCs can be positioned in the broader development of open education. However, open has many dimensions and can have many interpretations. An essential characteristic of open education is the removal of barriers to education. As such the survey included questions related to several barriers to learning.

The institutions (70%) do not support the idea that MOOCs should be paid for except for getting a formal credit as part of an accredited curriculum. I.e., there is no strong support for a little fee in the MOOC definition. Next a large majority of institutions is supporting the openness in MOOCs regarding open accessibility, open licensing and the freedom to select for different kinds of

Institutional MOOC strategies in Europe EADTU 2015 3