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Higher Education Reform: Looking Back – Looking Forward


Edited By Pavel Zgaga, Ulrich Teichler, Hans G. Schuetze and Andrä Wolter

The central focus of this book is the concept of higher education reform in the light of an international and global comparative perspective. After decades of far-reaching reform, higher education around the world has profoundly changed and now has to face the challenges of the present. This volume takes a close look at these changes, the drivers of change, their effects and possible future scenarios. In their contributions the authors discuss a variety of basic concepts: learning and teaching in higher education; financing and quality assurance; governance change; massification vs. equity and equality; internationalization and mobility, the implementation of lifelong structures in higher education.
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MOOCs: Hype or Hope? Conflicting Narratives in Higher Education Policy

← 384 | 385Maureen W. McClure


Most of the rhetoric related to MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) has been about how they will shape reform in higher education institutions. Discussed less often is how higher education institutions will shape MOOCs.

That the MOOC world is rapidly evolving is not news. What is news is the rapidity of change generated by the fractured, conflicting directions of this evolution. In their first major year in the US, 2012, the media narratives presented them as both monolithic and embedded in a permanent present, unrelated to previous history (Marginson 2012). MOOCs were a new technology destined to disrupt the structures of universities built over centuries (Fain 2012). Progressive technological advancements were assumed to be unilateral, rendering them impervious to the power of the past (Pappano 2012).

By 2013, the backlash had set in. The bloom was off the rose; results did not meet expectations; the conquering hero vanquished. A narrative of disappointment was now inevitable (Anderson 2012, Azevedo 2012). It took less than a year to move from hero to loser. The problem is that neither narrative accurately reflects the development of the MOOC movement (McClure 2013).

First, technology innovation often goes through what appears to be both over-hyped growth and backlash periods as described by the Gartner Hype Cycle™ (Tapson 2013). Gartner portrays the initial wave and later backlash. It suggests that each new technology goes through five phases: a) the Technology Trigger, b) the Peak of Inflated Expectations, c) the Trough of...

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