European University Association (EUA) published its second paper on MOOCs. The paper redraw the global picture of MOOCs in Europe. It highlights that there has been an important increase in the number of MOOCs over the last months. Despite the fact that MOOCs first appeared in US, European universities now account for one third of the MOOCs in the world and already the second European MOOCs Stakeholder Summit took place at EPFL in February 2014.
Numerous European countries started their own platforms and a common initiative, the Open Education Europa. This platform was launched by the European Commission in September 2013, the main goal of the portal is to offer access to all existing European open educational resources. It is a dynamic platform where you can find information about MOOCs, courses and open education resources as well as share information and read e-learning papers.
The EUA report tries to understand the motives for MOOCs in Europe. It concludes that many european institutions develop MOOCs to ensure global visibility and competitiveness. There is also the expectation that MOOCs could contribute to improving the quality and cost-effectiveness of higher education, and as a means of broadening and innovating learning. One of the promises is also that MOOCs would allow a better articulation between higher education and the labour market, and contribute to providing professional education opportunities for learners outside of universities.
But there is also some skepticism regarding the real benefit of MOOCs, especially in countries that have already established a broad offer of e- and online higher education. This may also be one of the reasons why so far there are only a few MOOCs in northern Europe. Many of the northern European universities have a longstanding practice in e- and online learning offers, and it may not be evident why they should now develop MOOCs. This is supported by the fact that there is a vivid discussion in the university communities of northern European countries: In Finland, for example, all universities have incorporated open universities, which may explain why the interest in MOOCs and international MOOCs providers seems to be limited, and discussions focus more on the development of new Finnish platforms for course delivery.
The European Commission (EC) is interested in MOOCs for various reasons. First of all an opportunity to bring european education into digital age, great prospects for IT skills development (shortage of programmers etc). MOOCs are coherent with the will to establish open acces on research results. Given the interest in modernizing European higher education, it also perceives MOOCs as an opportunity for transformation and increased collaboration with business.
It is likely that European MOOCs will be of growing interest internationally. Some European MOOCs initiatives are (also) considering international audiences: e.g. FutureLearn has been presented by Prime Minister Cameron during his visit to India this year; some francophone MOOCs from different European countries target African learners; and Spanish initiatives reach out to Latin America. European universities are obviously of interest to the big international platforms, whose representatives travelled many miles over the past months to promote their initiatives and patiently answered questions from European stakeholders.