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Online learning and MOOCs could revolutionise higher education

If access to higher education is limited in your part of the world, studying online could provide an ideal solution, says the UCL Institute of Education (IOE).

Written by Keith McDonald |

Postgraduate student doing a MOOC online
Courses such as MOOCs could boost access to higher education in parts of the world where demand outstrips supply.

Online and distance learning are ideal options if your access to face-to-face learning is limited or you're looking for a more flexible mode of study.

The Centre for Global Higher Education at the IOE has been investigating the impact of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). MOOCs are designed to be studied flexibly by a large number of people.

These sorts of courses could boost higher education in areas of the Global South, the Institute says, where demand outstrips supply.

See a list of University of London MOOCs.

University of London MOOCs

Facts and figures for our MOOCs

  • 36 : MOOCs available, including three specialisations
  • 1,400,000+ : students enrolled on our MOOCs
  • 4.5 / 5 : Learner satisfaction rating in 2016
  • AGCAS : One of our MOOCs won an AGCAS award in 2015

The researchers, Professor Diana Laurillard and Dr Eileen Kennedy, have identified a number of challenges for the growth of MOOCs.

These include maintaining the academic integrity of such courses and keeping costs accessible.

Ultimately, they argue that the most effective model could be an approach that ‘blends’ face-to-face support with the online content.

This is one of the distance-learning options available via the University of London.

While almost all of our courses can be studied by online / distance learning, a number of teaching institutions around the world provide academic support for many of them.

How does distance learning work with a teaching institution?

Dr Rick Levin of Coursera acknowledges our achievement in reaching one million MOOC enrolments.

The IOE research team is now recommending further work into how people learn through MOOCs, and how learning can be enhanced through design.

If MOOCs are to grow sustainably, they need to remain efficient and sustainable for both universities and platform providers, the team believes.

The balance of quality and equal access will most likely be met if online courses such as MOOCs continue to serve the interests of those who need them most.

The team is convinced that broad-scale online learning has the potential to transform teaching and learning in higher education. The ongoing challenge will be how to meet this in a sustainable way.

Read the full research paper.