How MOOCs are enabling exploration of credentials and assessment at University of Adelaide

For some time now, online learning has long been accepted as a tool for enrichment and exploration in higher education, and the emergence of online resources such as virtual discussion boards, wikis and course management systems has paved the way for MOOCs, ultimately changing the way students interact and engage when learning.

In recent years, universities around the world – including Australia – have been rolling out MOOC portfolios. Across the MOOC market, an estimated 35 million students have now enrolled in more than 4000 courses, with more than 500 university providers.

The growth of MOOC platform edX since 2012 to around 30 per cent market share shows just how much prominence and popularity open online learning has gained globally. With more than 90 international partners, edX is the leading non-profit MOOC platform, with members from all over the world – including Australian counterparts the University of Adelaide, the Australian National University (ANU) and the University of Queensland.

In 2014, Adelaide joined edX to form a flagship open digital learning initiative, AdelaideX, which is now providing learners with free access to the university’s expertise across a range of subjects, from computer coding and project management to music and wine-tasting.

“We’re excited to be making MOOCs, because it’s a way for us to enable huge numbers of learners to engage with the high-quality education that the University of Adelaide provides. And using digital channels combined with edX’s reach out to 8 million learners, we’re able to connect with learners in locations where it’s difficult to offer conventional face-to-face provision,” says Dr Katy McDevitt, who leads the AdelaideX initiative.

“Adelaide is a long way for a learner in Mumbai, Paris or Tokyo to travel and many people can’t afford to do so. Now we can enable learners to study with us from right where they are, with no geographical barrier.”

In its continuing journey to enhance student experience, Adelaide is exploring specific requirements related to assessment and credentials in the open learning space – particularly in the context of enabling open learners to build on their informal learning.

This is increasingly sought-after as MOOC learners seek new ways to demonstrate their work-readiness to employers, and Adelaide, like many universities, is exploring options to support learners who want to transition from informal MOOC study into formal education or the workplace.

How can universities implement credentials and conduct formative assessments that align with student learning outcomes? What steps can they take to build a comprehensive strategy to produce work-ready graduates?

Ahead of Innovation in Assessment & Credentials 2016, Dr McDevitt shares exclusive insight into how AdelaideX is enabling exploration of credentials and formative assessments in the open learning space.



Dr Katy McDevitt, Program Manager, AdelaideX, University of Adelaide

There’s a lot happening in the MOOC space, particularly the development of micro-credentials and credentialling partnerships between MOOC-active institutions.

At University of Adelaide, we’re carefully watching how this conversation unfolds among the edX university partner community – a conversation that has both been gaining momentum and raising some fascinating challenges for us, in the course of the year.

I’m interested in how that conversation is going mainly because it seems likely that future MOOC learners may soon come to consider access to a credit pathway out of their informal open study a ‘must have’.

Up to now, the vast majority of MOOC students have been content with what MOOCs offer as a self-contained (and free to study) learning activity, but my sense is that for a proportion of our open learners, this is changing. We’re exploring how to get ready for that, while also continuing to offer learners low-cost MOOC certificates via edX, as we do now.

Need for partnership in exploring future MOOC-based credentials

The first thing to acknowledge is that many – but by no means not all – MOOC learners are looking for credentials or certification. There is already a low-cost certificate which satisfies many – a verified certificate which students pay for up-front, and which is easy to share online and to employers once you pass.

But beyond this, some learners are looking for a way to transfer their learning into formal education or into career progressions.

On the education side of that, a movement towards credit transfer for MOOCs would – I think – depend on a strong shared understanding with other partners about the consistency, in terms of how much credit is applicable to what size and level of study; and which courses and programs align with which. Early days, but it looks possible.

This article is part of an insights series ahead of the Innovation in Assessment & Credentials Summit. Dr Katy McDevitt goes on to discsuss building partnerships to establish MOOC-based credentials & produce work-ready graduates; and factoring in work experience & attributes of MOOC learners to tailor credentials in line with their needs. You can continue reading the full article here.

If you’d like to know more about the Innovation in Assessment & Credentials Summit, download the brochure or visit 

Dr Katy McDevitt will be joined specialists from universities including Western Sydney University, Curtin University, Monash University, Edith Cowan University, Macquarie University, Swinburne University of Technology and more to discuss strategies on:

  • How to redesign curriculum and assessment to embed employability skills and produce work ready graduates
  • How to select the right method of assessment to align with your desired outcomes
  • How to enable students to build bespoke degress to become more work ready

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