Educators around the world discuss the future of MOOCs at the 11th TCU International e-Learning Conference 2020

By Erika Marie Santelices, AUN Intern
10 August 2020

The Ministry of Higher Education, Science, Research and Innovation of Thailand (MHESI), along with the Thailand Cyber University (TCU) held the 11th TCU International e-Learning Conference on 31 July 2020 with the theme “Disruptive Ecology: New Normal of Education in Post COVID-19.” 24 keynote speakers from almost all continents in the world gathered virtually to talk about the rise of Massive Online Open Courses, or MOOCs, and how education is changing in the time of COVID-19.

The conference was formally opened by Associate Professor Soranit Silthram, M.D., the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Higher Education and Associate Professor Thapanee Thammetar, Ph.D., Director of the Thailand Cyber University Project. They briefly discussed the history of TCU as it was established in 2017 with the aim of assisting higher education institutions in delivering distance learning and that it currently has around 500 courses and over hundreds of thousands of registered members. Assoc. Prof. Thammetar also discussed how MOOCs can serve as a tool not only for higher education, but also for lifelong learning. This point was further elaborated on by invited keynote speakers Prof. Curtis J. Bonk, a professor from Indiana University and President of CourseShare, and by Prof. Gerard Hanley, the Executive Director of MERLOT and SkillsCommons, saying that people have been turning to MOOCs even more as the COVID-19 pandemic develops. They especially stressed that education is one of the most powerful social and economic agents to help respond to the pandemic and that transforming education will give people more opportunities to thrive in spite of the changed environment.

Other keynote speakers shared their MOOC platforms and how their respective universities have managed to deliver quality education amidst lockdowns. One example is from Prof. Catherine Mongenet, the Director of France Université Numérique-MOOC (FUN-MOOC), who explained that FUN has supported French universities in developing their teaching and learning methods through digital and online tools. Mr. Dawal Shah, the Founder of Class Central, also showed the trends of the popularity of MOOCs for the past five months, pointing that numbers have doubled ever since lockdowns have been imposed all around the world.

In the afternoon breakout session, Dr. Choltis Dhirathiti, the AUN Executive Director, presented how the ASEAN University Network engages in programs and projects on e-Learning. He briefly gave examples of Open Education Resources (OERs) that the AUN has provided such as free courses on ASEAN Studies and Human Right Studies in SEA. He also stressed that we must revisit the definition of a Virtual University and reiterates the key aim of why the AUN was established, which is to form a network of universities in order to provide quality higher education to all ASEAN citizens through the use of modern technology. Lastly, Dr. Choltis presented a framework on how the AUN engages with cyber university which includes four important factors that converge and diverge with one another: Access to Educational Opportunities & Lifelong Learning, Quality Standards, Individual & Institutional Capabilities, and the Future World of Work. One example of convergence is between the Access to Educational Opportunities and Institutional Capabilities in which it is manifested by the university supplying content for individuals in order to give them new opportunities in the future. The framework can br seen below: