Universities Minister David WillettsMOOCs might be the “tipping point” where technology brings widespread change in teaching methods, said the Minister for Universities and Science, David Willetts, at a conference at Edge Hill University.

Speaking at The Digital University: MOOCs and the Humanities, Mr Willetts discussed the trends developing within the sector and the growing use of Massive Open Online Courses, which included issues of accreditation, using analytics to understand the way students learn, student recruitment and haptic technology.

Willetts012The conference, organised by Dr Ben Brabon, convenor of the UK’s first undergraduate credit-bearing MOOC, specifically addressed the challenges and opportunities facing the Humanities through the use of MOOCs.

Bringing together a range of high-profile speakers – including Dr Stephen Jackson (Director of Reviews, Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education), Hannes Klöpper (Managing Director, iversity), Professor Neil Morris (Director of Digital Learning, University of Leeds), Peter Bryant (Head of Learning Technology, London School of Economics), Professor Russell Beale (FutureLearn), David Kernohan (Programme Manager, e-learning, JISC), Saint John Walker (Head of Development, Creative Skillset), Carl Dawson (Managing Director, proversity), Ricardo Ferreira (Policy Officer, Education and Culture, European Commission), Dr Sian Bayne (Associate Dean, Digital Scholarship, University of Edinburgh) and Professor Andrew Ng (Co-founder, Coursera) – the event explored questions of good practice, pedagogical research, OER, platforms, quality assurance,  policy debates and emerging business models.

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Dr Brabon has worked closely with the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) on questions of MOOC accreditation. His recent paper on Massive Misalignment: The Challenges of Designing and Accrediting MOOCs – published with the QAA as part of their Talking about Quality serieswas referenced by Mr Willetts and has sparked debate in this area.

Dr Brabon said: “It is wonderful to be acknowledged by Mr Willetts for my research on MOOCs and work for the QAA. Edge Hill University has made an important contribution to our understanding of MOOCs and the Digital Humanities. At a moment of digital evolution in Higher Education, Edge Hill continues to innovate and offer students exciting and authentic learning opportunities.”

An article on Mr Willetts’ talk at the conference is also available in the Times Higher Education.