Department for Curriculum and Quality Enhancement

Future of EdTech 2015 - MOOCS/Social Media, Digital Identity, Student Engagement

The Future EdTech 2015 conference featured talks from HE institutions and industry professionals from across the world. Below is a summary of some of the recurring themes from the event.

Massive Online Open Courses (MOOCs)

MOOCs were a popular topic at the conference, indicating that they are still of interest to many HE institutions. Several of the discussions at the conference focused on the considerations of MOOCs as a serious model for delivering courses.

A University of Dundee case study (“Entering the healthcare MOOC market - The University of Dundee’s experience”) described some of the challenges of moving into the MOOC market. They also explained the positive impact that their MOOC has had, and the growth in interest from potential learners. Their MOOC had a staggering 5000 learners sign up after being advertised via the FutureLearn platform, suggesting that this is still a popular delivery model for online courses.

In contrast, Professor Yves Epelboin of Sorbonne University offered warnings of entering the MOOC market in his talk “MOOCs - Still a Viable Business Model?”. He challenged the MOOC model by highlighting their poor retention of students, their complexity and their overall intensive resource requirements involving technical and support staff. This was an interesting presentation that looked into the economic decisions of embarking on a MOOC and compared their cost efficiency to campus-based courses.

The University of Edinburgh has run MOOCs since 2012. They stated that the three main considerations for integrating technology into any course are: the potential benefit it can provide to students; the confidence one has in the technology; and the time and resources needed to redevelop a course to incorporate new technology.

Social Media, Digital Identity and Student Engagement

Social media is becoming increasingly prevalent in HE with an array of platforms being used to communicate with students.

Of particular note at Future Edtech was the session from education consultant Eric Stoller on the importance of social media in education: “What’s your Digital Identity: Leading and Engaging via Social Media”. His presentation emphasised the importance of digital literacy in the modern world, with the ability to use social media forming a key part of digital literacy. He highlighted social media as an important and effective tool for engaging with students. The idea of digital identity was also explored, with questions raised about how individuals and organisations are represented online.

Queen’s University Belfast presented a case study on using social media to interact with students: “CRM from the Student’s Viewpoint”. They argued that CRM involves all aspects of student communication and is an essential part of the student experience. They went on to present the case for using social media (in particular Twitter and Facebook) to overcome traditional difficulties in communicating with students. They presented some interesting data: for example, Facebook was more popular with female students whereas male students engaged more with Twitter. They also highlighted that it was not necessarily the platforms they selected that helped increase student engagement but instead their overall approach to communication. The need to “speak the language of the student” was emphasised; social media was simply an enabler.