G. Siemens y otros: Preparing for the Digital Universitiy

In the field of educational technology 2012 was touted as the year of the Massive Open online course (mooc). While the number of

MOOC offerings have since rapidly increased, the research in this space has been lagging. To help facilitate the development of research and examine the potential of MOOCs in education the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation supported the massive open online course (MOOC) research initiative (MRI).

Athabasca University, long a pioneer in distance education, was selected as the principal investigator for the grant. The MOOC conversation was largely occurring in the popular media and was focused on the technologies and the large numbers of learners enrolling. Thesheer scale of numbers of students led to bold proclamations of education disruption and a sector on the verge of systemic change. However, from the perspective of 2015, these statements appear increasingly erroneous as MOOCs have proven to be simply an additional learning opportunity instead of a direct challenge to higher education itself. Many of the issues confronting early MOOC development and offerings could have been reduced if greater consideration was given to research literature in learning sciences and technology enabled learning. This report is the final component of the MRI grant.

Additional work in the MRI grant includes research  reports, conference, and a special issue of the International Review of Research in open and Distributed learning. The articles presented in this report provide an overview of research literature in:

Distance educationBlended learningOnline learningCredentialingMOOC researchFuture learning technology infrastructures

It is our intent that these reports will serve to introduce academics, administrators, and students to the rich history of technology in education with a particular emphasis of the importance of the human factors: social interaction, well-designed learning experiences, participatory pedagogy, supportive teaching presence, and effective techniques for using technology to support learning. The world is digitizing and higher education is not immune to this transition. The trend is well underway and seems to be accelerating as top universities create departments and senior leadership positions to explore processes of innovation within the academy.

It is our somewhat axiomatic assessment that in order to understand how we should design and develop learning for the future, we need to first take a look at what we already know. Any scientific enterprise that runs forward on only new technology, ignoring the landscape of existing knowledge, will be sub-optimal and likely fail. To build a strong future of digital learning in the academy, we must first take stock of what we know and what has been well researched.

During the process of completing this report, it became clear to us that a society or academic organization is required to facilitate the advancement and adoption of digital learning research. Important areas in need of exploration include faculty development, organizational change, innovative practices and new institutional models, effectiveness of teaching and learning activities, the student experience, increasing success for all students, and state and provincial policies, strategies, and funding models. To address this need, we invite interested academics, administrators, government and industry to contact us to discuss the formation of an organization to advocate for a collaborative and research informed approach to digital learning.

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