Computer Science is Fastest-Growing Subject for Undergraduates in the UK

  • Category: Education
  • Hits: 157

csBy Brian McKenna

Computer science as an undergraduate degree subject has seen a gentle spike in demand between the 2015/16 and 2016/17 academic years, according to the most recent Higher education student statistics survey.

The subject saw a 4% increase in undergraduate enrolment numbers – the biggest percentage rise in all subjects. However, the absolute number – 1,175 – was below that for business and administrative studies, 2,395.

At graduate level, there was an increase of 885 in full-time, first-year computer science students. But in percentage terms, that rise lagged those for biological sciences, agriculture, creative arts – subjects allied to medicine, history and philosophy. The biggest absolute increase was in business and administrative studies – 5,000 students.

First-year male students dominated, overall, in science subjects. More than 80% of computer science and engineering and technology students were male, but there was a lesser preponderance of 62% in mathematics.

However, the number of female students of computer science has increased over the past three academic years. In 2014/15 the figure was 16,040, in 2015/16 it was 16,505, and in 2016/17 it was 17,390 – an 8.4% increase over the three-year cycle.

The percentage of female students studying science subjects overall has also continued to rise, from 39% in 2012/13 to 42% in 2016/17. For England, the percentage of full-time, first-year female undergraduates in 2016/17 was 39%, and in Scotland it was 46%.

Welsh and Northern Irish higher education institutions also registered more female first-year full-time science undergraduate students, in percentage terms, than did England – 43% in Wales and 47% in Northern Ireland.

Meanwhile, and with an eye to future student cohorts, in last year’s A-levels, a higher percentage of male students received computing A* to B grades than their female counterparts. This was a turnaround from 2016, when girls achieved higher grades than boys in computing A-levels, with 68.5% of girls receiving A* to C grades, compared with 61.4% of boys.

In GCSEs in 2017, the number of students of both genders who entered the computing exam increased by 9% year-on-year, from 63,650 in 2016 to 69,350 in 2017.


The Rise of the Arab MOOCs. Will Education in the Arab World Ever be the Same?

  • Category: Education
  • Hits: 154

1b39c517986022bBy Reine Farhat for Wamda

The past 10 years alone, tech invaded classrooms and played a crucial role in disrupting the way knowledge is consumed worldwide.

Benchmarking this with what’s happening in the edtech scene regionally, Arab innovators and educators are not standing still one bit. Success stories like online educational platform Rwaq, which has 1.9 million enrolments in 300 courses since it started four years ago, or big initiatives like The One Million Arab Coders launched by HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum to train one million young Arabs on coding, reveal that the MENA region is well on its way to becoming an edtech leader.

The education industry started evolving much quicker following the era of the 3 Ws and online access to education got much easier. The launch of Khan Academy in 2006 was a leap towards a new way for consuming educational content called Massive Open Online Course (MOOC). This online platform for educational tools offered people the chance to learn about different subjects outside of the typical classroom. Perhaps, this idea was an evolution of the 1953-televised courses that were introduced by the University of Houston.

It was from then onwards that many platforms started to find a safe ground to launch and flourish and even pivot.

In 2002, MIT started its OpenCourseWare project, which offered online course materials from its undergraduate curriculums for free to everyone.

In 2010, the first iPad was introduced to the market and adopted in a number of schools in the UK.

Global online courses platforms like Udacity and Coursera (2012) were launched to bridge the knowledge gap. The first raised $105 million in 2015, with a $1 billion valuation making it a unicorn company. Coursera, on the other hand, raised $64 million in June 2017, at an $800 million valuation.

While we are yet to see such MOOC valuations in the Arab region, a number of initiatives are playing a leading role in educating people, in Arabic.

In 2014, Queen Rania Foundation for education development launched Edraak in Jordan, a MOOC platform that offers a variety of courses in Arabic.

Today, the platform has 1,400 registered learners users a day and is reaching over 1.4 million Arabic speaking learners from all over the world, and over two million fans on social media channels, according to Shireen Yacoub, CEO of Edraak. The platform features over 76 different courses in various topics. Edraak joined forces with to create an online educational platform for Arabic open educational resources (OERs), targeting K-12 students and their educators across the Middle East and North Africa region, said Yacoub.

“Today, an estimated 13 million MENA children, equivalent to 40 percent of the school age population, are missing out on education because of conflict and displacement. The refugee crisis has also strained existing education systems in host countries, like Jordan and Lebanon that have taken in large numbers of refugee students, compromising the quality of education offered to both local and refugee children,” she explained.

The content of the new platform will include videos, automated assessment tools, mini-games, and reading material.


Saudi Arabia’s Rwaq is one of the largest MOOC platforms in the Arab region. With 1.9 million enrolments in 300 courses since it started four years ago, Rwaq has been focusing on providing high quality Arabic content. “By far, technology courses are the most demanded. We had 50,000 enrolments in Java courses taught by Dr. Mohath Alkhalaf,” said cofounder Fouad Alfarhan. “It’s becoming clearer that nanodegrees/specialization programs are the most promising model. The initial model where student could take MOOC course and convert it into university hours is not working that well,” he commented on the evolution of MOOC usages, hinting at its role in building employees capacities. “The collaboration between MOOC platforms and corporates to create online educational programs is working well. Corporates might find MOOC platforms the best place to prepare their future employees or current ones.”

Perhaps this move is what the region needs, when over 22 percent of companies already use MOOCs to develop employees, added Yacoub pointing at the knowledge gaps currently seen across the MENA.

In order to roll out nanodegree programs, Alfarhan told Wamda that he is in the process of signing a sponsorship deal with an international organization and hoping the program will officially launch in December 2017.

Under the same goal, the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs in Saudi Arabia launched Doroob, in partnership with MOOC provider edX, to offer entrepreneurs the necessary tools to build sustainable businesses.

Nadrus and Dawrat are other MOOC examples from the Gulf. Dawrat offers movable educational workshops in different locations in Kuwait. The last one was at 360 Mall. “People would sign up online or even on the spot,” explained Dawrat cofounder Mohammad Al-Suraye. “Each room accommodated around 20 people. We had 15 workshops over three days and over 400 people overall.”

Nadrus as a platform has served more than 600,000 learners over the past four years, with more than 200 Arabic courses (public and private) and serves over 100,000 registered users, according to cofounder and CEO Ahmad Fahad Al-Shagra.

When asked about the future vision of MOOC, Al-Shagra spoke about ‘Intajy’, their white-labeled cloud training engine, which includes personalized learning through artificial intelligence. He said that now they have colossal sums of data to teach their algorithms, and that they will be launching their gamified mobile application in Q1 2018. “SaaS is the best way ahead with Intajy leading the path in the region to empower Arabic skills training,” he added. They are working closely with ministries across the GCC region to scale their impact. “Emirates Driving Institute [...] uses as its official e-learning platform to deliver thousands of hours of training every month to their customers in Arabic, English, and Urdu.”

The DIY era

New tools and inventions are being put into practice to elevate the education process into a more enjoyable experience. The do-it-yourself approach started to gain traction as pocket-sized computer Raspberry Pi was launched in 2012. It included a wifi and a bluetooth connectivity, a MicroSD Card, a hard drive, and cables among other things.This kit taught the basics of computers and is used in robotics.

Award-winning startup littleBits was launched in 2011 by Lebanese-Canadian Ayah Bdeir. It is an open source library of electronic modules that snap together through magnets. It provides different types of kits, such as Star Wars Droid Inventor Kit, which topped the holiday toy list this year.

“Designers make tables and chairs, and now they’re designing DVD players and coffee makers and Nests. So they need to prototype with electronics; littleBits was a tool for prototyping. It was never really meant for kids,” explained Ayah Bdeir in an interview on how her startup changed its marketing strategy to target kids.

Serving the same purpose, The Little Engineer debuted in Beirut, Lebanon in 2009, and is now available in India, Singapore, Kenya, Nigeria and soon in the Gulf. This startup started by offering courses, kits, and workshops in science, technology, engineering, and maths to kids at their offices. Now, the startup is working with private schools in Lebanon by giving them the tools and curriculums, and is also training teachers on how to use them. This year, founder Rana El Chmaitelly started working with few public schools after getting the permission of the Ministry of Education.


“We work with a network of schools that has 20, 40, and 50 schools,” said El Chmaitelly in a chat with Wamda. Her plan is to expand within Lebanon, starting within Beirut and going to Bekaa, the Shouf and the North. “I can invest in a competition in China but that’s not my goal. I want to invest in my own country despite all the challenges. I prefer to use the money to equip a public or private school here,” she said.

Getting funds to buy the expensive material to build robots and get corporates to support education in the country are two key challenges she is currently facing. She believes the local education system is about to expire and needs to become more technologically advanced. Currently operating in the UAE, Jordan, Lebanon and soon in Kuwait, The Cosmic Dome is another example of a startup working in the edtech field. It installs domes of different sizes indoors or outdoors, to project educational subjects during events, marathons, or any national competition or activity. “The use of calculators in schools resulted in revising the math instruction methods in the 70s. I believe that the next trend will go for the immersive experiences, VR, and 3D printing,” said Mohamad Abbas, CEO of The Cosmic Dome. “The immersive experiences like the ones simulated inside a planetarium [a domed-building in which different types of data is visualized] allow learners to be immersed in the projected environment. As for the VR, I believe no student will have to physically go to school in the future as all classes would be delivered through a VR interface and it would virtually place them in an almost real classroom environment. Perhaps the most important advantage of using VR in the future would be saving the time learners take to travel to and from their schools and investing it in actual learning,” he explained.

Abbas is already working on installing his project in different schools and training teachers to use them. “Each school must have a small to average sized planetarium to fit an average of one class. The planetarium can be visited by science classes, art classes, music classes, and others.”Initiatives on a larger scale

When governments and big companies get more engaged in contributing to a better educational system, things move much quicker.

Smart Learning initiative, a program launched by HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, has an ongoing partnership with Microsoft Gulf. It includes equipping over 145 schools, 3,500 teachers, and 24,000 students with Windows-enabled devices that have built-in educational apps, according to Ahmed Ameen Ashour, head of education sector at Microsoft Gulf. The latter also signed an MoU with Abu Dhabi Education Council (ADEC) to deploy Office 365 in schools, enabling around 150,000 students and 13,000 teachers to collaborate and innovate. It will also bring Bett MEA to Abu Dhabi for the second year, to gather education leaders and stakeholders and share case studies and best practices.


Ashour believes there are three main pillars for edtech. The first being immersive learning, “with VR advancements permeating industries across the world. VR can be implemented in gamified solutions, stimulating visualizations for picture storytelling, for performing lab experiments in physics, medical, astronomy, and biology. Wearing headsets, students would be able to clearly see how a chemical reaction takes place and form a new concentrated solution or the way rats breathe and perform the respiratory activities,” he clarified. He also has high hopes in gamification methods and cloud computing, which provides students with “a digital library and relief from heavy textbooks. Quality content is yet another milestone that has ignited a new trend in the edtech industry,” Ashour added.

HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum has also launched The One Million Arab Coders initiative, to train one million young Arabs on coding.

“We expect an increase in e-learning and online training initiatives across the region simply because with online training the results are easily measurable, cheaper, and consistent from a quality perspective,” commented Al-shagra on the initiative launch. “We have seen some impressive breakthroughs in Arabic Speech Recognition from relatively small players in Jordan. Mobile learning and gamification with spaced repetition are becoming more reliable across the region.”

Her Excellency Dr. Sahar Nasr, the Minister of Investment and International Cooperation in Egypt and Higher Education Minister Khaled Abdul-Ghaffar, have recently signed a cooperation protocol to support university students studying entrepreneurship. It is part of an initiative called Fekretak Sherketak (‘Your Idea is Your Company’), which was launched in September 2017. It aims at connecting entrepreneurs with government entities and offering consultancy services and trainings. The agreement will allow university students to work in startups and receive technical training and financing.

A trip back in time

The introduction of education technology (edtech) goes back to the early twenties. The first teaching machine was patented in 1928 by Sidney Pressly. It had multiple-choice questions and moved when the student picked the right choice. In the early 1930s, IBM released an 805 test scoring machine, which was intended to read pencil marks left by students on exam papers and grade them.

In 1960, PLATO (programmed-logic for automatic teaching operations) was designed and built by the University of Illinois. It came with a television set and offered courses for students and certain local schools.

Between 1961 and 1968, a new program called The Flying Classroom started broadcasting on Midwest Program on Airborne Television Instruction as part of an educational program given to schools back then. Speak & Spell, a small electronic device with a visual display, came to life in 1978. It was the first of three-educational toys series: Speak & Read and Speak & Math. The toy helped kids aged up to seven years to learn spelling and pronouncing over 200 common misspelled words.

Also in 1978, Apple, which was already two years old, supplied Minnesota Educational Computing Consortium organization with 500 Apple Computers II in order to distribute them to schools. In 1981, BBC Microcomputer Systems was released. It consisted of a series of microcomputers mainly focusing on education, and was adopted by many schools in the UK. Ten years after, in 1991, the worldwide web era began on a global scale, and also spread to become a primary education tool.

It will take years for schools and universities to be entirely disrupted by technology, because digital transformation drastically changes the way they operate. It also touches upon the mindset of teachers and people in charge and how they are able to change kids’ mindset through technology. This means installing computers at schools would not be enough if students did not focus on the required skill sets. Yet, emerging countries regard this transformation as a competitive edge. We might not get rid of all school subjects any time soon, like Finland intends to do, but we’re making small steady steps towards that goal.


NYU President Remains Quiet After Shia Professors Claim Sectarian Discrimination From Partner Country UAE

  • Category: Education
  • Hits: 201

new york university abu dhabiBy Sam Raskin for NYULocal

NYU Abu Dhabi (NYUAD) has become embroiled in yet another controversy after two professors were denied security clearances by the United Arab Emirates over the summer. Though he has yet to make a public statement, NYU President Andrew Hamilton addressed the issue in a letter Wednesday afternoon following calls from multiple professors urging Hamilton to speak publicly on the matter.

NYU professors Mohamad Bazzi and Arang Keshavarzian planned to teach at NYU Abu Dhabi during the fall of 2017 and spring 2018, respectively. University administrators contacted both professors during the 2017 spring semester and invited them to teach courses at NYU’s newly-minted location. After submitting their applications and paperwork, they had not heard back until summer of this year, when they were informed they would be unable to teach at NYUAD. Their appeals, which were filed by the university without their knowledge, had also been denied, the pair was told. A third NYU professor, whose identity is not yet public, was also denied clearance to teach in Abu Dhabi.

Bazzi’s circumstance was first made public in late September. An Associate Journalism professor who has twice taught in Abu Dhabi during January Terms, Bazzi detailed his experience with being denied a visa by the UAE government in the New York Times. His application was rejected, he believes, due to his religious sect, which professors are required to provide on both their NYU and UAE forms. “It is usually easy for American citizens to get a work visa for the U.A.E. Why was I denied? I am also a Shiite Muslim born in Lebanon,” he wrote. Bazzi went on to call upon NYU to, at the bare minimum, acknowledge the limited academic freedom at NYUAD. “This is far from the free movement of people and ideas to which N.Y.U.’s leaders claim to aspire,” he wrote.

Iranian-born Keshavarzian, a Shia Muslim, was named a week later in a letter addressed to President Hamilton and other university officials as a second professor who was denied security clearance when applying to teach in Abu Dhabi, as reported by Washington Square News. The letter, signed by 10 NYU professors, called upon NYU to uphold norms of academic freedom at NYU’s Abu Dhabi campus, or at the very least to act transparently and clarify it is unable to do so. Like Bazzi, Keshavarzian suspects his rejection was due to his religious sect.

In response, NYUAD spokesperson Kate Chandler pushed back against the claim that UAE immigration policies pose academic freedom challenges for the university. “Like the UAE, the NYU Abu Dhabi community is extraordinarily diverse: it includes faculty, students and staff from well over 100 countries, representing a broad collection of faiths — including those identifying as Sh’ia, many of whom joined as recently as this semester,” Chandler told Washington Square News.

Chandler went on to request that people understand the UAE government’s right to craft its own immigration policies, even if they were not in keeping with one’s own beliefs. “While we continue to press for the free flow of scholars across our global network,” she continued, “we also recognize that, as in the U.S., it is the government that controls visa and immigration policy.”

Bazzi and Keshavarzian say that the university’s response has been insufficient. They feel as though the university is dragging its feet on meaningfully addressing the issue. The professors expressed frustration that they have yet to receive unequivocal public backing from Hamilton.
“We would like to see a public statement from the administration condemning this policy and our denials,” said Bazzi on a call with NYU Local Monday evening. “We would like to see the administration take steps to see these denials reversed and make sure there is movement of people and ideas across the campuses that they claim to aspire to.”

In an interview, Keshavarzian indicated he too would like to see a more forceful response from the university.  

“What they haven’t done is to come out and publicly support the faculty that have been denied entry [and] have been even accused of being some sort of security threat,” Keshavarzian said on Monday. “I’d like to see a statement made by the NYU administration supporting the faculty at least, and ideally, condemning the UAE’s policy of rejecting faculty and students.”

He also noted that NYU seems to be applying different standards to the UAE and U.S when it comes to responding to occasions in which students and faculty face obstacles due to immigration policies. “This is particularly striking because in the past year year and a half, Andy Hamilton and various members of the NYU leadership, have issued very strong statements, and I support this, against Donald Trump’s policies [of] the weakening of DACA and the other policies that the U.S government has issued,” Keshavarzian said. “So the silence in the UAE case is quite noteworthy and unfortunate.”

Indeed, the NYU president has not shied away from criticizing certain immigration policies when he feels inclined to do so. In emails, letters and statements, he has criticized President Trump’s positions on DACA and the January Executive Order introducing the Travel Ban, and promised that NYU employees would not disclose students’ immigration statuses.

And in March, when Hamilton penned an op-ed in the Washington Post to make the case against a proposed budget that cut funding for science, he wrote that the U.S’s “posture towards immigrants is already imperiling our ability to attract the most talented people from around the world…” But Hamilton, months after the two NYU professors were denied access to one of its campuses and three weeks after Bazzi’s op-ed, had not made a peep in public channels.

Meanwhile, several NYU professors had grown frustrated with NYU’s inaction. So, on Tuesday evening, the NYU Middle East and Islamic Studies Department (MEIS) sent a letter to President Hamilton. The letter, sent via email by department chair Marion Katz, urged Hamilton to take a public stand and expressed disapproval toward’s Keshavarzian’s and Bazzi’s rejections of security clearance. “[T]his development calls into serious question NYU’s willingness and ability to ensure the free movement of faculty and students across what the administration terms the “Global Network University,” to prevent religious discrimination against its faculty by the UAE and to protect its faculty’s academic freedom,” the department wrote. “It also indicates that NYU Abu Dhabi is not really in a position to decide who it wants to teach its students and conduct research, free of interference on political or religious grounds by the UAE authorities.”

The letter went on to criticize the administration for its silence on the issue. “We find it extremely distressing that no NYU leader has thus far seen fit to speak out publicly in defense of our colleagues,” they wrote.

The department expressed that, in light of recent events, they had reached a consensus to avoid the Abu Dhabi portal campus for the time being in solidarity with those that have been prevented by the UAE from teaching there. “Until NYU’s leadership addresses these issues seriously,” the letter continued, “the majority of the MEIS faculty…feel compelled to call on NYU faculty based in New York to consider refraining from teaching or participating in academic events at NYU Abu Dhabi until such time as all NYU faculty and students are free to do so.”

“Learn to Code,” Says Everyone, Everywhere

  • Category: Education
  • Hits: 167

digital backgroundBy Henry Kronk for eLearning Inside

This week, Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson took the stage at Norfork High School to deliver a familiar message: learn to code.

“If you have broadband internet and know coding, you can run the world from right here in Norfork,” Hutchinson told students, according to the Baxter Bulletin.

One million tech jobs, the governor said without a reputable citation, are currently vacant. “The tech world needs those guys, they need them,” he said.

Earlier this month, Apple CEO Tim Cook traveled to France to meet with French President Emmanuel Macron about developing the European tech industry. He issued a similar pronouncement to French children: “If I were a French student and I were 10 years old, I think it would be more important for me to learn coding than English,” Cook told the French outlet Konbini.

“I’m not telling people not to learn English in some form—but … this is a language that you can [use to] express yourself to 7 billion people in the world. I think that coding should be required in every public school in the world.”

In September, Ray Dalio, head of Bridgewater, the world’s biggest hedge fund, appeared on Fox Business. He stressed to host Maria Bartiromo, “Everybody has to learn to code. It’s like not knowing how to read and write in the new age.”

“By in large, the world is going to largely consist of people who can take language and put it into code, which then allows the computer to operate like a brain or people who are going to be displaced by that,” said Dalio.

Sage advice from non-coders

Dalio, Cook, and Hutchinson all have a few things in common. First, they all occupy powerful positions. Second, they recently said something incorrect to the press. And third, they either don’t know how to code themselves, or haven’t held a coding job in years.

If someone could run the world with a broadband connection and a knowledge of coding from Norfork, Ark., as Gov. Hutchinson says, then they would also probably get around in their flying car.

Back in the real world, you shouldn’t necessarily learn to code before you learn English. As Quartz’s Nikhil Sonnad points out, you need to speak a human language to learn, write, and implement code. And more often than not, that language isn’t Mandarin. “The codebases for nearly every major programming language, library and API are written with variable names, comments and documentation in English,” Sonnad writes.

Cook probably would have known that if he had done any coding work recently. It’s possible that he did some developing for IBM or Compaq in the ‘80s and ‘90s, but his role at Apple has always been business operations. In 2008, he likened his job to the dairy industry. (“If [inventory] gets past its freshness date, you have a problem.”)

Dalio, typical of Fox News guests, is even less coherent.

Why do so many leaders and managers want other people to learn to code?

For one, paying coders is expensive. Glassdoor currently puts the average software engineer at $109,087 in the U.S.

If more people knew how to code, there would be more competition, and companies like Apple would be able to pay their coders less.

Many companies have already begun to make strides in this direction. Several successful tech companies have partnered with online educators—Coursera, edX, Udacity, and many others—to create computer science vocational programs to funnel talent.

When students complete these courses, they are trained for a specific job and usually have zero industry experience, allowing the companies that trained them to hire them for a much lower salary.

Tech companies have also been driving efforts to incorporate computer science education into K-12 school systems. Often employing Hutchinson-, Cook-, or Dalio-esque language, industry leaders rationalize their efforts by arguing that it will better-equip students for a changing workforce and help them succeed in their professional lives.

But the Guardian’s Ben Tarnoff says this rationale is based on a false premise. “[T]eaching millions of kids to code won’t make them all middle-class,” Tarnoff writes. “Rather, it will proletarianize the profession by flooding the market and forcing wages down—and that’s precisely the point.”

Daring to Learn How to Learn

  • Category: Education
  • Hits: 215

learningBy Sandra Milligan, Associate Professor, University of Melbourne for the Pursuit

Why do some of us learn easily and quickly, while others struggle, left behind plodding along?

Part of the answer, at least in the online learning space, is that learning is a real skill in of itself, and some people are more skilled at it than others. And the good news for the plodders is that it is a skill that can be readily grasped when we break it down.

I’ve analysed the data from over 100,000 learners on the University of Melbourne’s various MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) - every click, tap, swipe they make, every document they consult, and every word they write in chat forums and exercises.

What emerged was a remarkably consistent pattern of what learning behaviours work and which don’t. It means that it should be possible to design online learning systems that not only teach skills and knowledge, but also at the same time teaches students how to best learn.

Overall, the analysis suggest that learners with lower levels of learning expertise are likely to be passive in their behaviour. That is, they receive input, limit their interaction to consuming content supplied by the teacher, and are unengaged with their peers, taking responsibility only for themselves. They seek guidance only from authoritative figures about what to read or think, and adhere to contexts and perspectives similar to their own. They regard learning as the mastery of reasonably static, generalisable knowledge, easily transferred in books, or by lectures.

Expert learners, by contrast, are likely to scan different sources of information, seeking out a range of potential sources of learning in the environment. They regard valuable knowledge as somewhat volatile, context dependent, widely distributed, and including tacit understandings, as well as generalisable understandings.

They actively seek out the views of others and conduct dialogues with peers in which they collaborate, mentor, and even teach their fellow students. They actively review and consider the perspective of others, and are critically aware. They are prepared to reject anything they see as unhelpful, and are independent-minded enough to take the social risk of expressing a contrary view. They produce learning artefacts, try out new ideas and skills, potentially risking public failure and embarrassment, and they share learning activities and resources with others. They interact with feedback to exhaust its value for learning and provide feedback themselves to peers and evaluate peer performances.

The study found that 90 per cent of learners from any MOOC could be reliably grouped along this curve of learning skill by analysing their behaviours in the log stream of online courses. I found that an individual’s position on the learning skill progression was a good predictor of grade outcomes in the MOOC.


In essence, this progression describes the differences between learners more or less skilled in learning in MOOCs, and supports the view that learning is itself a learnable and transferable skill. It means that people can get better at learning if they know how to go about learning to learn. Indeed, it is possible that the progression captures something about learning skill in general, and that it can easily be adapted to any learning by anybody at any level.

By analysing the progression of learners I was able to identify five distinct levels of learning:

  • Level 1: Reader – MOOC as a textbook
  • Level 2: Consumer of Instruction – MOOC as a tutor
  • Level 3: Self-regulated producer of learning – MOOC as a tutor with a user support group.
  • Level 4: Collaborative learner – MOOC as a collaborative learning environment
  • Level 5: Reciprocal teacher – MOOC as a reciprocal, distributed learning environment

For me the most exciting aspect of the research is the potential for putting it to work.

Because the analyses are based on learning progressions along which individuals develop, and not just an end result, assessments of expertise in learning can be fed back to every participant in even the most massive of MOOCS. That feedback could show every learner the level of expertise in learning they are at, together with hints, encouragement, suggestions and resources to help them move to the next level of learning expertise. And feedback, learning science suggests, can be the rocket fuel of learning.

With this possibility in mind, the algorithms underpinning the assessment of learner position on the progression in MOOCs are being further developed for use in the Melbourne MOOC program in ways not previously attempted.

Early results suggest that these progression-based analyses do indeed have practical utility in providing formative feedback as well as informing course developers and learning designers about ‘what works’.

By showing that learning is a skill within large-scale digitally mediated programs, the research will help to develop both the quality of programs and the capacity of learners to make the most of them.

In a society categorised by fast-moving technology, business disruption, and multiple career changes, knowing how best to learn will be a critical skill.


Conference & Events


HigherEd News

User Access

About Us

Follow Us


Sign up to keep in touch!

Be the first to hear about latest News in higher education from ArabiaHighered.

Check out our Privacy Policy & Terms of use
You can unsubscribe from email list at any time