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25.3.2018 : 0:22

Beyond MOOCs: The Future of Learning on the Future Internet


John Domingue - Knowledge Media Institute, The Open University, UK
Michael Boniface - IT Innovation, UK
Serge Fdida - University Pierre and Marie Curie, France
Spyros Denazis - University of Patras, Greece


Learning is a key human activity essential for personnel well-being and ensuring a good quality of life. Learning can take many forms from informal learning via online resources, workplace learning to update oneself on latest procedures or protocols to formal certified learning within established educational institutions. Learning is also an important concern when considered simply from a budgetary perspective. For example, in 2009 the EU budget on education was 6.2% of European GDP. Moreover, the education budget is currently being reduced in a number of EU regions, for example in Spain and Greece, which is an additional rationale for innovative solutions enabling the provisioning of cost-effective high quality learning. In this respect MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) represent “…an extension of the move towards online learning provoked by growing numbers of students, reducing learning and teaching budgets…” [16].

Over the last couple of years, great activity and interest has been associated with MOOCs as they threaten to radically transform higher education in a way the Internet has already transformed other sectors such as the music industry and broadcast TV. Since 2012, major players in higher education have been establishing MOOC companies, for example, from Stanford we have Coursera [1] and Udacity [2], and from MIT, Harvard and Berkeley we have edX [3]. In 2013 The Open University entered the market with FutureLearn [4] a collaborative venture with around twenty universities and the British Library and British Museum. More recently, these academic institutions have now been joined by the big web players, for example, Google is now creating a ‘YouTube for MOOCs’ [5]. These initiatives already are reaching millions of students (e.g. in March 2013 Coursera reported that they had 2.8M students [14]) and have thus far attracted around $100M of investment [17]. MOOCs provide an unprecedented opportunity to provide very high quality learning to all with little to no financial burden irrespective of geography. As the Time Magazine stated earlier this year (with an American bias) MOOCs may open the door to a global “Ivy League for the Masses” [18]. Current enthusiasm for MOOCs however, should be tempered with the fact that there remain open challenges associated with high drop out rates, the lack of a proven sustainable business model and issues associated with guaranteeing a high quality learning experience at scale.

New technologies are also affecting schools – in February this year Prof Sugata Mitra was awarded $1M from the TED organisation to continue his work on ‘Cloud Schools’ [6]. This work began with ‘Hole in the Wall’ computers in Indian slums enabling impoverished children to learn by themselves (this idea later inspired the story behind the Oscar-winning film Slumdog Millionaire). Current work is focused around seven sites - five in India and two in the UK – where children from poor backgrounds will use secure Skype connections to speak to a “cloud” of retired professionals from a range of fields who have volunteered to share their expertise.

So what’s next? And what will the relationship be between the next incarnations of Internet-based learning and the Future Internet?

Unpacking the above generates a number of follow-on questions that we will discuss in the session.

  • Following from MOOCs what are the future learning paradigms now emerging or currently on the horizon (from a pedagogical, educational and business perspective)?
  • What are the personal, social and economic benefits that these new learning forms will bring to Europe?
  • What requirements do these new learning frameworks impose on the next generation Internet (from a network, services/cloud, media, security, mobile perspective)?
  • How will we meet these requirements? To what extent will our current Future Internet activities meet the requirements? Is there anything we need to initiate?

This session would address the above from a Future Internet perspective. In particular we will investigate the relationship between the future of learning and:

  • GENI – education is one of three strategic pillars for the US Internet experimentation facilities and supports a variety of ongoing learning projects.
  • Services and Cloud Computing – giving cheap and easy access to large computational resources for learning purposes.
  • NRENs – providing specialised high performance networking to support education on a national basis.

Based upon the projects that they lead the session organisers will cover the future of learning from Media (EXPERIMEDIA) and FIRE facilities (FORGE, OPENLAB and STEER) perspectives. We will also give a view of the future of learning from the viewpoint of the EIT ICT Labs KIC.

MOOCs have shown that Internet and Media technologies offer the possibility to radically change the education landscape and the start of Horizon 2020 provides a prime opportunity to start to explore the relationship between the future of learning and future internet technologies.

Agenda - 20 March, 9:00-11:00

  • Introduction (organizers) - The organisers will give a brief overview of the rationale and aims for the session. (keynote 10 min)
  • MOOC platforms and the Future Internet -  Simon Nelson, CEO of FutureLearn, UK (presentation 10 min)
  • Cloud Schools: transforming learning and lives in impoverished areas through Internet Technologies - Natalia Arredondo, Newcastle University, UK (presentation 10 min)
  • Future Internet and the future of workplace learning - Carmen Padrón, Senior Consultant, Atos Research and Innovation, Spain (presentation 10 min)
  • The Future of Learning: an SME perspective - Dimitris Tsigos, CEO and co-Founder of Epignosis, Greece and President of the European Confederation of Young Entrepreneurs (presentation 10 min)
  • Future Learning: an NRENs Perspective - Afrodite Sevasti, Chief Business Development Officer at GRNET, Greece & Senior Project Manager in GÉANT (GN3plus) (presentation 10 min)
  • What can GENI bring to learning? - Kuang-Ching Wang, Associate Professor, Clemson University, US (presentation 10 min)
  • What can Cloud bring to learning? - Ray Walshe, Director of CloudCORE, The Cloud Computing Research Centre, Dublin City University, Ireland (presentation 10 min)
  • Open session with audience (panel discussion 30 min)
  • Panel (panel discussion 30 min) 
  • Closing (organizers) (keynote 10 min)


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