First pan-European university MOOCs launch

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Partners in 11 countries have joined forces to launch the first pan-European 'MOOCs' (Massive Open Online Courses) initiative, with the support of the European Commission. Around 40 courses, covering a wide variety of subjects, will be available free of charge and in 12 different languages through OpenupEd, which is led by the European Association of Distance Teaching Universities (EADTU). The partners, mostly from open universities, are based in: France, Italy, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain, UK, Russia, Turkey and Israel.

Androulla Vassiliou, European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth, said of the new initiative: 'This is an exciting development and I hope it will open up education to tens of thousands of students and trigger our schools and universities to adopt more innovative and flexible teaching methods. The MOOCs movement has already proved popular, especially in the US, but this pan-European launch takes the scheme to a new level. It reflects European values such as equity, quality and diversity and the partners involved are a guarantee for high-quality learning. We see this as a key part of the Opening up Education strategy which the Commission will launch this summer.'

Fred Mulder, chair of the EADTU task force on open education and UNESCO chair in Open Educational Resources, is leading the initiative. He said: 'We have much to offer in Europe by fully exploring the possibilities created by the MOOCs revolution, but with a broader perspective on opening up education. Our aim is to respond to the need for a more accessible system of higher education, which puts the learner at the centre. The European MOOCs will provide quality, self-study materials and a bridge between informal learning and formal education. Some of the courses attract formal credits which will count towards a degree, for example. And we cherish diversity both in language and in culture.'

Courses in the initiative include mathematics, economics, e-skills, e-commerce, climate change, cultural heritage, corporate social responsibility, the modern Middle East, language learning and writing fiction. Each partner is offering courses via its own learning platform and at least in its home language. The current choice is from the 11 languages of the partners, plus Arabic.

Courses can be taken either in a scheduled period of time or anytime at the student's own pace. They typically involve from 20 to 200 hours of study. All courses may lead to recognition: a completion certificate, a so-called badge, or a credit certificate that may count towards a degree. In the latter case, students have to pay for the certificate, with the cost ranging from €25 to €400, depending on the course size (the hours of study involved) and institution.

The launch partners are: Anadolu University, Turkey; Kaunas University of Technology, Lithuania; Ministère de l’Enseignement Supérieur et de la Recherche, France; Moscow State University of Economics, Statistics and Informatics, Russia; Open Universiteit in the Netherlands; Open University of Israel; Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia, Spain; Universidade Aberta, Portugal; Università Telematica Internazionale UNINETTUNO, Italy; The Open University, UK; Slovak University of Technology in Bratislava (FEI), Slovakia; and EADTU. In addition, other partners are planning on joining.