Massive Online Open Course

Just as the online revolution is dramatically changing the music industry – as most recently evidenced by the recent sudden closure of music giant HMV – it also appears that a seismic shift in the way higher education is delivered may not be far away.

IT Sligo has announced that it is to follow in the footsteps of Universities like Harvard and MIT to become Ireland’s first public higher education institution to offer a free online course or a Massive Online Open Course (MOOC).

Traditionally, colleges charge fees for online programmes and offer accreditation upon completion.  By comparison, under the MOOC model, courses are free, are not accredited and have ‘massive’ enrolments – in some cases in the thousands.

MOOCs are considered to be a ‘disruptive innovation’ in higher education and have been sweeping the US in recent years. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation invested $3 million in the development of MOOCs in the US last November and Bill Gates said MOOCs are going to ‘revolutionise education’.

Ireland’s first MOOC will commence at IT Sligo this September and will take the form of a free, six-week online course in Lean Sigma Quality, the foremost quality process improvement approach for companies in the manufacturing and service industries.

President Professor Terri Scott, said the initiative is a natural progression for the Institute; “IT Sligo has been at the forefront of innovations in online learning so we see it as a natural progression to be forging new ground with this MOOC ,” she said.

“It’s a very exciting development and we’re delighted to be pushing the boundaries in improving access to higher education.”

In line with leading MOOC provisions internationally, the course at IT Sligo will be entirely free and it won’t be accredited. However, students completing the course will benefit considerably from the experience, according to Brian Mulligan who is one of the Programme Managers at the Institute’s Centre for Online Learning; “Students who complete the course will receive a certification of completion and will have the option of progressing to our accredited online Six Sigma Green Belt course,” he said, adding that the Institute’s existing online learning platforms Moodle and Adobe Connect will be used to deliver the programme.

The first MOOC will be delivered by Brian Coll and Dr John Donovan, academics from the institute’s School of Engineering & Design who both lecture on the Institute’s online BSc and MSc in Quality.

The change of higher education is set to mirror the disaggregation witnessed in the music industry in the last number of years, said Brian Coll. “Just as it is now less likely for someone to purchase a complete album as opposed to a single music track, people may soon be selecting the amount of education they want from various sources, studying it in their own time at a time and location that suits them, and putting it together in a combination that meets their skills needs – just like is done on iTunes,” he said.

“The online revolution is changing the world irrevocably,” said Coll. “We’ve seen plenty of examples of what happens to sectors and organisations that have been reactive rather than proactive to the pace of change and higher education is no different.”

For more information or to sign up for IT Sligo’s MOOC go to www.itsligo.ie

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