MOOC Audit Reports #1

MOOC Audit Reports offer an overview of availability of MOOCs for the purposes of developing technical and transversal skills in workseekers in four different sectors: Health and Social Care, Tourism and Hospitality, Engineering, and Business and Finance, in the DESTINY Project’s four partner countries – UK, Spain, Greece and Slovenia.

UK: Health and Social Care

The UK health and social care is one of the world’s biggest employers, employing nearly 1 in 10 of working age adults in the UK. The range of opportunities available for those seeking work in healthcare could involve working in one of the health services 365 occupational roles, clinical and non-clinical. UK youth unemployment rates remain high even in cities with successful economies, and is currently around 13%. The evidence is clear that the health and social care system of the future will need a workforce that is flexible, emotionally intelligent and technologically literate. Young unemployed or underemployed people will need to demonstrate a wide range of soft skills and have values that reflect a vocational, empathetic and caring disposition if they are to gain employment in the health and social care sector in the UK.

Our project proposes that MOOCs would likely be very suitable in assisting unemployed and underemployed young people to increase their employability in UK health and social care since they offer a potential economically attractive proposition to both employers and work seekers. Both these groups would likely be very interested in MOOCs that:

  • Meet their particular education and transversal skill training requirements
  • Can be accessed anytime from any location
  •  Provide self-paced learning with assessment and feedback
  •  Do not require long spells away from the workplace
  • Are cost efficient and effective
  • Deliver soft skills including values in accord with the values of health and social careorganizations and the NHS constitution
  • Offer some kind of credential recognized by some official body which confirms a required level of competency has been achieved
  • Might assist in recruitment by identifying engaged and committed job seekers
  • Are of high quality and are offered by recognized high quality provider institutions

Spain: Tourism and Hospitality

This report provides an analysis of the potential contributions that MOOCs could make to the Tourism Industry when used as a tool through which specific transversal skills are honed, whether they are knowledge-based skills, attitudes, or even behaviours. The report starts with an analysis of pre-existing MOOCs on offer in the EU, with particular emphasis on Spain. The purpose is to identify which MOOCs are available under each of the categories established by Open Education Europa and to describe existing trends. Following this, the trends and approaches used by the institutions creating MOOCs are studied with an understanding that they should somehow address the need to improve the training of transversal skills and sector specific skills. This need has been established by the European Lifelong Guidance Policy Network (ELGPN) as not only important to the future success of the labour market in Europe, but fundamental to it. Our hypothesis is that MOOCs could act as a bridge between an individual’s skill set and the skill sets a company requires from its staff, thus serving as a useful tool for work-seekers, or likewise for employees looking to improve their chances for promotion through appropriate work-based learning. The report details a list of generic transversal skills that are common to all professions that can be delivered via MOOCs before providing an overview of the current supply of MOOCs within the Tourism Industry. In Spain, the Tourism Industry creates more employment than any other sector of the economy and as such staff must be highly trained if they are to be successful in a competitive market. Having established the supply of tourism MOOCs, we detail the sector-specific generic transversal skills required by anyone working in tourism. Lastly, we offer suggestions regarding how MOOCs could be used to improve employment opportunities in the Tourism Industry in Spain, with emphasis placed on one of the most popular tourist destinations of the country, the Canary Islands.

Slovenia: Business and Finance

The report demonstrates how higher education in the business and finance sector is responding to the MOOC phenomenon, especially in terms of the development of transversal skills and thus addressing its employability, with Slovenia as the focus country.

In order to answer the research questions a) what is the current situation regarding MOOCs in the Business and Finance employability sector, and b) what evidence can be found for MOOCs to address transversal skills, we investigated 207 MOOC platforms and other open online content repositories for the Business and Finance sector. Our proposition was that in order to address employability and develop transversal skills for the Business and Finance sector, MOOCs in that particular sector have to be available, easily accessible for students, students have to be aware of and accept MOOCs as a learning opportunity, and finally, students have to accomplish the learning goals set in a MOOC in order to demonstrate that they have developed the desired skills.

Looking at MOOCs from the Business and Finance sector, from a student’s perspective, focusing on Slovenia, has shown that although Slovenia is only slowly responding to the MOOCs phenomenon, there are opportunities to learn transversal skills through MOOCs. MOOCs are available from various MOOC platforms mostly in English, they cover a wide variety of topics and a wide range of skills, subject-specific as well as transversal skills.

However, there are some barriers associated with that. The very first is the lack of clarity regarding uniform classification and what we mean by transversal skills, i.e. how they overlap with lifelong learning skills, 21st century skills, and generic skills.

The second barrier is language. Although English is a lingua franca in today’s world, language is still a barrier to enrolling on a MOOC, especially for students speaking minority languages. Another potential barrier to access MOOCs is their classification. Search facilities on MOOCs platforms enable searching only by subject and not by a particular skill or event job. An in-depth content analysis of MOOCs across different platforms would be needed to define a uniform classification system and allocate MOOCs accordingly in the way that it would support work seekers. Although MOOCs have been considered a well spread phenomenon, and have been widely spoken about among higher education professionals, in order to reach wider audience MOOCs should be more advertised to potential target groups.

Finally, the report demonstrates the possibilities to develop transversal skills in the Business and Finance sector through MOOCs, however it does not include evidence on the quality of such learning and accomplishment of learning goals set in MOOCs. A more detailed qualitative analysis of assessment and feedback methods of individual MOOCs would be needed to address this issue and evaluate the pedagogical effectiveness of teaching transversal skills through MOOCs.

Greece: Engineering

The two main MOOC providing platforms in engineering and in the natural sciences fields are Coursera and edX, offering altogether 167 engineering courses, which makes about 7% their total course offerings.

In the Engineering field, the main issue regarding MOOCs is their weakness to offer the learning outcomes that a traditional laboratory course in an Engineering Department can provide. Ways to deal with this disadvantage have been suggested, for example, by Lowe (2014), in the form of ‘MOOLs: Massive Open Online Laboratories’ which offer virtual and remote labs. In order to learn the softer skills missing from the Engineering MOOCs, students can enrol on MOOCs offering the relevant softer skills to complement their Engineering MOOCs. However, innovative ways in which MOOCs can enhance the skills of the students to offer them the kind of education they seek need to be explored. The Department of Electronics of the Technological Education Institute of Crete, in collaboration with Sentiment Analysis, conducted a questionnaire survey with the Higher Educational Institutions (HEIs) of Crete in order to identify the popularity of MOOCs among the HEI students. A total of 1033 undergraduate students from three universities participated in the survey. When the participants were asked about their knowledge of MOOCs, 57% stated that they knew about MOOCs and 43% indicated that they did not know about MOOCs. The students learnt about MOOCs from various sources. These included the internet (53.6%); their university professors (17.7%); other students (17.7%) and other sources (11%). The most popular MOOC platforms among students who had studied a MOOC were Coursera (54.4%); edX (26.25); Udacity (7%), Khan Academy (7%) and other platforms (5.4%). MOOCs were less popular with students on courses involving laboratory work. This is consistent with what has been noted above about MOOLs. Final year students seemed to be more interested in MOOCs. Only a negligible proportion of respondents had studied a MOOC, and 89.2% of them stated that they had not engaged with a MOOC.

A major obstacle that the MOOC providers have to overcome is the high dropout rate of students enrolled on MOOCs. Our survey illustrated that the reasons for dropout include time restrictions; absence of accreditation; high fees and other reasons. The survey also sought the students’ view regarding their intention to follow a MOOC that was designed for a specific sector in response to market needs. The majority of respondents (74.2%) agreed with the idea of market-oriented courses, the highest distribution of which was among the engineering schools. Furthermore, 57% of the respondents believed that a module oriented towards market needs would enhance their employment prospects. A small proportion of respondents (14.6%) rejected the notion of linking MOOCs to market needs. This may be due to the current negative attitudes in European Universities (especially among the Greek students) towards market-led courses, illustrating the absence of a link between higher education and societal/market needs.

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