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OpenCases: the Universidad Carlos III Madrid case study

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OpenCases is a study which is part of the OpenEdu Project. It is a qualitative study consisting of a review of literature on open education and nine in-depth case studies of higher education institutions, a consortium of universities, a private organisation and a national initiative. It analysed the rationale and enabling conditions for involvement in open education, open education activities, strategies, impact, challenges and prospects. The main outcome of this study is evidence that a large number of OER have reached a large group of learners. However, completion rates of MOOCs are low. Accreditation is not formalised and in general its impact on employability is not measured.

Established in 1989, Universidad Carlos III de Madrid (UC3M) is one of the youngest universities in Spain. It initiated its open education initiatives in 2007 and was one of pioneers in this area in Spain. Its involvement in open education derives from two main aspects: its mission, as a public university, to increase access to higher education and, second, its desire to increase its visibility worldwide.

Its actions in open education were enabled by the profile of its (young and technology aware) academic staff, long-standing use of virtual learning environments at the university, the way in which the university responded to the Bologna process, the position of university’s leadership in this area and the introduction of policies to incentivise staff involvement in open education.

UC3M currently offers OCW for 221 courses in all disciplinary fields. In recent years the university has become very active in the provision of MOOCs on edX (it so far produced 6 MOOCs for that platform) and MiríadaX (so far 2 MOOCs). These have attracted more than 100.000 registered learners.

One of the advantages of UC3M is that it provides MOOCs in two widely spoken languages: English and Spanish. This widens the pool of students that can access its courses. The visibility of the courses is enhanced through membership to well-known MOOC platforms. Its MOOCs have been designed as introductory courses for a general audience interested in the topic –which maximises access possibilities at the same time that does not overlap with more specialised courses offered on campus.

UC3M’s quality assurance actions for its open education initiatives are based on internal processes of peer review. The reported level of satisfaction of MOOC participants has been high. However, there has been so far little emphasis at the university on measuring the impact of open education initiatives on learners –for instance in terms of employability. Anecdotal evidence reported by interviewees, on the other hand, suggests that there has been a positive impact of open education initiatives on “the use of technology in educational and pedagogical practice” and in the global visibility of the university. Faculty increasingly use OER –from UC3M and other sources- to prepare their lectures.

UC3M follows the policies of the two MOOC platforms with which they work (edX and miríadaX) for the certification associated with MOOC participation and completion. It does not give any ECTS credits on the bases of certificates issued by MOOC platforms or other university providers, except in the case of doctoral studies. Recognition is thus an area for further development.

The university has, since 2007, an open archive for its research, although there is still some way to go in order to ensure full coverage of the research outputs of the university. The UC3M also makes publicly available a good range of information about its operations through its website.

UC3M has placed significant emphasis on the management of open education since 2012, when it established two working groups to coordinate the creation, use, dissemination and conservation of OER and support instructors in this area. Open education, therefore, has had institutional organisational consequences.

UC3M open education initiatives are fully funded through internal resources. This has limited the volume of activity of the university in this area. The university does not currently have a business plan to diversify income streams, which may be a challenge for the future. There are also challenges regarding the interest of academic staff with regards to participation in MOOCs initiatives under the current system of incentives. The university should consider ways to develop measures to assess the impact of participation in its open education initiatives on learners, and to expand recognition derived from participation in open education.

The full document is available online at http://publications.jrc.ec.europa.eu/repository/bitstream/JRC101533/jrc101533_opencases%20case%20studies%20on%20openness%20in%20education.pdf.

This extract comes from the the OpenCases: Case Studies on Openness in Education document which states that reproduction is authorised provided the source is acknowledged. Source: Souto-Otero, M., Inamorato dos Santos, A., Shields, R., Lažetić, P., Castaño-Muñoz, J., Devaux, A., Oberheidt, S., Punie, Y. (2016) OpenCases: Case Studies on Openness in Education. Institute for Prospective Technological Studies, Joint Research Centre, European Commission. EUR 27937 EN, doi:10.2791/039825


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