Moocs: another weapon in the outreach armoury

Edinburgh’s principal tells conference that universities can target disadvantaged schoolchildren via the online courses

July 11, 2013

Massive open online courses could be used as a powerful outreach tool to encourage schoolchildren in disadvantaged areas to think about applying to university, a conference has heard.

Sir Timothy O’Shea, principal of the University of Edinburgh – one of the leading experimenters with Moocs in the UK – said that a whole class of British sixth-formers had been among those taking one of its Coursera online courses launched earlier this year.

“One of the things we have learned from our Moocs is the possibility of engaging schools,” he told a Quality Assurance Agency event held in London on 8 July.

“On [our] Introduction to Philosophy [Mooc] we were not expecting sixth-formers [to register] but one of the students that looked to us like an individual was actually a whole class of sixth-formers and a teacher pretending to be a single learner,” he said.

He said Edinburgh also identified that other schools using the Mooc were “in a rough part of Scotland”, where pupils were unlikely to go on to attend the university, and it had sought to engage them by sending lecturers to talk to the pupils.

“We now see [Moocs] as a tool in our widening participation armoury,” he told delegates at the event, We Need to Talk About Quality: Moocs – a Question of Quality and Standards?.

Speaking to Times Higher Education, Sir Timothy said that he would encourage anyone developing a Mooc to consider sixth-formers as potential participants.

He said that the Moocs run by Edinburgh on the US Coursera platform from January, which attracted 300,000 students worldwide, had helped to assess the readiness of some students for university, as well as allowing Edinburgh to target particular UK schools with a view to recruiting undergraduates.

“You might have a Mooc student from an area that you know from the postcode would be difficult to recruit from…so as a university we can send someone down to visit and say ‘come and talk to us’,” he said.

chris.parr@tsleducation.com

You've reached your article limit

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 6 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments
Register

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Most Commented

United Nations peace keeper

Understanding the unwritten rules of graduate study is vital if you want to get the most from your PhD supervision, say Kevin O'Gorman and Robert MacIntosh

David Parkins Christmas illustration (22 December 2016)

A Dickensian tale, set in today’s university

Eleanor Shakespeare illustration (5 January 2017)

Fixing problems in the academic job market by reducing the number of PhDs would homogenise the sector, argues Tom Cutterham

poi, circus

Kate Riegle van West had to battle to bring her circus life and her academic life together

man with frozen beard, Lake Louise, Canada

Australia also makes gains in list of most attractive English-speaking nations as US slips