Research Initiative on the Global Impact of Online Learning launched

2013, certainly saw the establishment and disruptive trend of free Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) programmes. This quickly expanded to a new offering called paid MOOCs, otherwise known as MOOC+. Prestigious institutions perhaps focused on their balance sheets, have adopted this route, not without some criticism but wait, another new and far more futuristic (think star trek) acronym has hit the online educational world. Its now known as SPOCs and stands for Small Private Online Courses. Harvard is in on the act early and for its students they are offered  a selection process and the capacity for a more customised experience. While free at the moment, I can see fees and course credits becoming part of its future.

BBC News education correspondent, Sean Coughlan writes, “Harvard and University of California, Berkeley, part of the edX online alliance with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, are among the universities beginning to experiment with this more refined model.”  With so much happening in the online world of education, the Sloan Consortium is partnering with a group of higher education and inter-governmental organizations to launch a new research initiative and deliver the Global Online Higher Education Report (GlobalOHER), the first-ever research initiative focused on the global impact of online learning.

The global landscape of post-secondary education is definitely in a period of dramatic change, with learning no longer confined to the indoor classroom. Although there is clear evidence of the growth of online learning, the global data remains anecdotal or limited in scope. The GlobalOHER initiative is designed to address this deficiency. The report will provide insights such as information on the role of MOOCs around the world and perspectives on the importance of online learning in institutional strategies. Its a little surprising that there is a current void of empirical data on the state of online learning worldwide.

Kathleen Ives, acting CEO of the the Sloan Consortium commented “The GlobalOHER initiative is the first formal effort to define online learning in the global context, to document levels of participation, the importance of online learning in institutional strategies and the policy implications for online learning.” The Sloan Consortium (Sloan-C) is a leading professional online learning society devoted to advancing quality e-Education learning into the mainstream of education through its community. The initial global survey of institutions will be conducted during 2014, with the GlobalOHER being issued semi-annually thereafter. The report will replicate the methodology, approach and report scope of the U.S. Higher Education reports produced by the Babson Survey Research Group for the past 10 years.

On the Sloan-C blog, there is an interesting comment directed at Moocs, Dave Cormier writes “At a recent conference, David Wiley, open education pioneer said that MOOCs (massive open online courses) were essentially 1999 online learning with the password protection taken away. He’s certainly not alone in his dislike of all things MOOC – and no wonder” Do you agree with that statement? Do Moocs have the potential for greater things down the line? Let me know your thoughts.

If you would like contribute to the GlobalOHER initiative, more information can be found at