MOOCs: The Global Employer Perception

Graduate Recruiter October 2014 cover

The Association of Graduate Recruiters(AGR) is an employer-led membership organisation, whose goal is to ensure that all member organisations can recruit and develop the best student talent for their needs and the needs of the UK economy.

With a diverse network of over 700 members, they work closely with employers, the education sector, and supplier partners to represent big employers in the UK.

They invited me to contribute to a special piece on their magazine on the latest IT used in the world of graduate recruitment: Graduate Recruiter. This magazine is published every two months, and is considered as “an essential guide to the latest developments and innovations in graduate recruitment”.The article is published in the October issue of 2014. Here is the original article submit.

You can read the online version of the magazine here. It is on page 22-23. There is a scanned version of the page.

employer page 29-30 MOOCS

According to the latest research from QS, out of 4897 employers 71% said they were not familiar with MOOCS That the QS Global Employer Survey covers nearly 28, 000 employers from 24 major industries within 134 countries the world over, the findings point to a challenging scenario and signal that the growth curve of MOOCS within the mind of industry is yet to occur. More detailed on the survey responses can be obtained by emailing Dr. Christina Yan Zhang, China Director, QS Intelligence Unit at

The findings further revealed that:

1. On average, currently only 29% (less than 1/3) of employers surveyed are aware of or familiar with MOOCs.

Figure 1: Of all the employers who responded to the question “Are you aware of/ familiar with MOOCs”, more than 2/3 responded negatively.
MOOC figure 1

2. Employers consider MOOCS as a valid form for professional development.

Indeed, here the figures yield more promise in that 82% of the 884 employers surveyed globally view MOOCs to be a valid platform of professional development(Figure 2).

Figure 2: detailed breakdown of different regions of the world where employers consider

MOOCs to be a valid form for professional development.
MOOCs figure 2

3. Most employers would encourage their staff to take MOOCs.

84% of 722 employers surveyed would encourage their staff to take MMOCs. (Figure 3).

Figure 3: Employers who support or encourage staff to take MOOCs

MOOCs figure 3

4. MOOCs completion on a CV is widely considered by employers as a positive factor in recruiting.

As shown in Figure 4, 71% of 875 surveyed employers consider MOOCs completion on a CV as a positive factor in recruiting

Figure 4: Employers who consider MOOCs completion on a CV as a positive factor when recruiting.

MOOCs figure 4

5. Of 887 respondents who answered the question “What are the main areas you would like to see MOOCs developed?” the breakdown was as follows (figure 5):

Figure 5: employers who consider the main areas where they would like to see MOOCs
Developed in line with the needs of respective corporate scenarios:

MOOCs figure 5

Of those selecting ‘other’ – a significant proportion cited areas related to human resources.


Revealing trends from Google on university-related web searches.

According to a recent BBC news story[1], the Internet giant Google has published its Top 20 most searched universities by Google users worldwide for 2014. The two main trends revealed by this latest list are not only interesting but also thought provoking.

First and foremost, we are witnessing a clear and significant increase in MOOCs popularity. The leading MOOCs providers such as Coursera or edX have been registering online visitors to their websites well above and beyond many traditional and leading institutions such as the University of Cambridge. These platforms, present users with the opportunity to learn and acquire skills and knowledge by reputable institutions while at the same time offer a great deal of flexibility and personal input for each of the users – students. It is certainly not surprising that modern advances in education have made MOOCs popular, reliable and in many cases a preferred alternative to further study overall, especially in times where disposable income for many may be an issue. It also appears that MOOCs and their potential will soon ripen as a field of academic competition and it will be very exciting to see how the top universities in the world will adapt and follow this specific trend.

The second major trend revealed is that Universities no longer rely on the Internet merely for filling in their news feed and sharing important updates, but as the context of educational services becomes even more internationalised and diverse, they begin to adjust their websites for recruiting and attracting international talent. Many of the websites now feature virtual tours, informative videos, advanced graphics and layouts, while more and more departments and schools within the universities are moving to modernise their respective web pages. This is not only due to technological advancements that allow this changes to take place, but it stems primarily by the way we are experiencing and accessing information in the current age, where one institution’s website is in effect its public face.

For more information you can access the full article here.



Reimagining Education: Wharton and QS join forces to identify innovation in higher education teaching

By Martin Ince

What does the world’s most innovative higher education teaching look like in 2013? And how can it be brought to a wider student audience?

QS is aiming to answer this question, in collaboration with the Wharton School of Pennsylvania University, one of the world’s best-reputed business schools.

The two organisations are launching a unique competition, Reimagine Education, to find new approaches to teaching that meet the needs of today’s hyper-connected and demanding students.

Jerry Wind, director of the SEI Centre for Advanced Studies in Management at Wharton, is a member of the Academic Advisory Board for the QS World University Rankings, and Reimagining Education was his idea. He says that despite innovations such as MOOCs or the Khan Academy’s bite-sized learning modules, even the most prestigious of universities tend to rely on top-down and traditional approaches to teaching, with too little regard for the learning that might result.

He adds that new approaches to learning are also needed because of the growing diversity of the student body. They can be of almost any age, and their motivations for study might be anywhere on the spectrum from professional advancement to the pure love of knowledge.

Reimagining Education is intended to recognise educators who have thought of new approaches to pedagogy in higher education. We are looking for novel teaching with demonstrable results in terms of improved learning.

The distinguished judging panel for Reimagine Education will award prizes for distance, presence and mixed forms of learning. One of these three will also be the overall winner. There may also be awards, if entries of sufficient merit come in, for the best innovative pedagogy in each of the five faculty areas of the QS rankings: the natural sciences, the social sciences including business, biomedicine, technology and engineering, and the arts and humanities. There may be further prizes too, maybe on a regional basis.

The first Reimagine Education prizes will be awarded at a major conference on innovative pedagogies which we are holding at the Wharton School on December 8-10. Professor Wind intends it to be the first activity of many for spreading new practice in higher education learning.

Full details of the competition, the judges, the judging criteria and the thinking that lies behind the idea are at Entries have to be submitted by the end of August. Please do think of entering, and encourage others to do so.



Global Internet

Massive Online Open Courses – Changing the face of online education

The Massive Online Open Courses – MOOCs have made a spectacular entry into the world of education. Well known platforms such as Coursera and Udacity are reshaping the outlook of online education. Offering a multitude of courses and in some cases in more than one language, the content is coming from global partners, US state institutions and other key educational players. The numbers suggest that this is a successful experiment[1], with more than 4.0 million students enrolled in Online open courses as of 2013. The type of subjects is diverse and the outlook of the student population is varied, ranging from high school graduates to accomplished professionals.

Their popularity and their extensive reach have made them an interesting field for traditional education providers as well. Harvard and MIT are behind the edX platform which offers 157 courses and attracted over 1.6 million students[2]. Sooner or later other institutions could join the process, forming their own platforms, especially when their content bears a strong brand image, or offer courses via collaborative media.
Read more


To MOOC or not to MOOC?

By Martin Ince, convenor of the QS Global Academic Advisory Board

Apart from some diehard cynics, everyone seems to agree that MOOCs are going to shake old-school higher education to its foundations. Or failing that, they are going to be a great marketing tool for prominent universities found near the top of the QS Rankings.

So earlier this year, I decided to test the waters by taking a MOOC. Having last been a student some decades ago (apart from the odd recreational evening class), I also reckoned the experience would reintroduce me gently to the world of formal learning.

But how to choose between the thousands of MOOCs on offer? Having written about European science for most of my career, I am now increasingly embroiled in China, so the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology course on Science, Technology and Society in China (Part 1, Basic Concepts), run by Naubahar Sharif, more or less chose itself. It had the advantage that it only took three weeks, so it was no big loss if it was terrible, while also leading into another more detailed course in the autumn. And HKUST is Asia’s top university, according to the QS University Rankings: Asia.

So how was it? Well, high-tech is not the word. The main content, three weekly batches of lectures, involves Sharif talking into a camera and showing some very unflashy PowerPoint. However, his style is good and he knows his stuff.

A worse problem is that the course has been badly misnamed. Week 1’s nine lecture segments did not touch on China except peripherally, being more of a canter round the science studies field (Kuhn, Popper and the like). In week 2, all the content was about China, and things got very interesting. But there was a heavy tilt towards innovation and no mention of any sort of science that does not lead to application. Week 3 was all about innovation, and only one of the seven segments was about China. It was really a course on innovation systems, with an emphasis on China.

However, to point to another much-discussed virtue of MOOCs, there did seem to be a pretty fair mutual support system, with a lot of email chat between students based all over the world, and with highly variable knowledge of English.

I certainly enjoyed rejoining the learning world, and by the end was even answering the quiz questions correctly. This involved relearning the basic principle of reading the question properly before answering it.

I also learned a lot from the marking phase of the MOOC. This involves everyone marking three other students’ assignments for each of the three weeks. Week 1 was about technological lockin, a subject on which I edited a big UK government report a few years ago. The range covered everything from McKinsey-level analyses of this complex issue to folk who had missed the concept completely.

Like other MOOCs, this one is no more than a taster for a real course, but a lot of thought has gone into it and it has clearly excited a lot of bright students.  Will I show up for the next phase this autumn? I don’t quite know, but I have the feeling that I just might.




Surviving The MOOC Frenzy

Don’t panic just yet. Despite everything you have heard about Massive Open Online Courses, your university will probably survive the current MOOC frenzy.

A meeting earlier this month at the University of London drew a lively audience of about 150 people to debate the MOOC phenomenon. Run by the University itself, which has been delivering distance learning since 1858, the UK’s Leadership Foundation for Higher Education, and the Observatory on Borderless Higher Education (OBHE), it heard that universities have several reasons for giving away their precious intellectual property online.

The first, as delegates heard from Bill Lawton of OBHE, is that MOOCs are rapidly starting to make money for universities. This mainly happens when the course is validated for academic credit. The result will probably be a Freemium model, like the one popular in the software industry, in which a cut-down version is free but the full item comes at a cost. There are already plenty of cases of a MOOC forming part of a degree course, and therefore involving payment for exams and marking. For example, the University of Texas MOOC offering, via provider EdX, forms part of its planned $10,000 degree, while there is also academic credit for MOOCs from four German universities via Udacity.

Many MOOCs are offered by big-name US universities that are happy to regard them as taster sessions for their highly-priced courses. However, surveys show that about 80 per cent of people taking them already have a degree, often a higher degree. This suggests that a typical MOOC user might well go on to buy a short course, for interest or for professional development, rather than a full degree.

But from the point of view of the university, the difference between a MOOC and conventional university attendance may well be the data it produces. Because the student’s every keystroke is recorded and analysed, it is possible to track student progress, find out where material is too simple or too complex, and see what sort of learning works best for which student. MOOC providers routinely use keystroke patterns to determine whether students are taking their exams or have brought in a substitute to provide the answers. MOOC entrepreneurs are already selling this data, which universities need to improve their provision.

Edwin Eisendrath of Huron Consulting Group in Chicago told the conference that the ability to analyse student learning as it is happening opens up fascinating possibilities for university management. At the moment, we accept that it is possible to measure research outputs, which are the principal driver of academic promotion. But in future, it might be possible to quantify teaching success, which could also be used in promotion decisions.

Tim Gore, director of global networks and communities at the University of London, told the conference that MOOCs need to be seen in context. Their interactive format suits Generation Y, whose members are more serious about peer approval than about praise from their elders. They have also arrived at a time of growing scepticism over the cost of conventional university study.

In future, MOOCs are also likely to be used as a test-bed for teaching innovation, for example by building in games as a serious teaching tool and by incorporating automated cues for students to complete projects. Diana Laurillard of the University of London’s Institute of Education said that they might well contain tested elements common to a range of subjects rather than being assembled on a craft basis like today’s university courses. But this still suggests that MOOCs are going to become a new form of short course, often with an emphasis on professional development, not a direct rival to full-scale university provision.




Open Badges Project

Harvard Business Review has identified several key innovation trends to expect in 2013, one of which is awarding learners (mainly those taking online courses as part of university distance courses, MOOCs or job trainings) with digital badges, rather than classic certificates or degrees. These are “a new type of credential being developed by some of the most prominent businesses and learning organizations in the world, including Purdue, Carnegie Mellon, the University of California, the Smithsonian, Intel and Disney-Pixar.” Compared to the rather generic and often inflated grades in certificates, badges identify the specific skills and knowledge of the badge-holder. Moreover, they introduce an element of gaming for the particularly competitive or curious. Read more


The World of MOOCs According to Moody’s

There is only one problem with the world’s top universities; not everyone can go. They are too far away, the fees are too massive, or you have other things to do with your life.

Now all that is about to change, according to the supporters of MOOCs. This is an acronym you had better learn. It means Massive Open Online Course. Coursera, the biggest provider of MOOCs, has signed up 33 top universities to provide them, and perhaps more by the time you read this. You can learn finance from Michigan, cosmology from Caltech, or critical thinking from Edinburgh, all without paying money or leaving home.Most MOOCs are up to 10 weeks long and do not lead to academic credit, although a growing number are starting to.

Read more

HE News Brief 10.08.10

by Abby Chau


Here are this week’s news stories:

  • Scotland is opening satellite campuses in Hong Kong, Dubai, and Bangladesh. As the UK is facing a higher education squeeze, Scottish universities are doing what many of their peers are already doing, diving into the very lucrative international market. However Ruth Moir, Head of International Development, says that this move was not provoked by the recession but rather providing quality higher education is the main goal. As well as establishing a nursing college in India, there are plans to also set up a biofuel research centre in Hong Kong.
    Full Story: Guardian
  • He is considered a brilliant entrepreneur in some circles. Others just consider his empire the villain in the open source debate. Whether you hate him or love him, you can’t deny that Bill Gates is an influential man with more money than he knows to do with. So, when he proclaims that traditional higher education will be replaced by the web in five years, some will sit up and listen. Speaking at the Techonomy 2010 conference recently, Gates said high tuition costs and the accessibility of the internet will change the higher education landscape. These remarks come as the University of California, Berkeley plans to expand its online arm.
    Full Story: Tech Radar UK
    Read more

HE News Brief 16.03.10

by Abby Chau


We thought we would start sharing a summary of what we have been reading and discussing each week. Here are a few items that generated a bit of buzz this week:

  • The parting of ways between Times Higher Education and QS is generating a substantial amount of traffic in the blogosphere.
    Full Story: University World News
    More: Inside Higher Education
  • An educational reform proposal in India that would allow foreign universities to set up shop in India. Some say this will help Indian students who want an education, others decry the proposal as only benefiting wealthy families who can afford it.
    Full Story: BBC News
    More: Telegraph UK
  • Dramatic rise of university management pay causing a stir as it was revealed that the highest-paid Vice Chancellor received an annual salary of £474,000.
    Full Story: Guardian News
    More: Universities are hiring managers at three times the rate of academics (Telegraph UK)
    Read more