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  • The use of video in MOOCs: new tool or disruptive innovation?

    The use of video has been a major trend in MOOCs, especially when linked to universities and with teachers presenting actual courses. This challenge has led many teachers and learners to use it as an integral part, if not the main part, of a learning experience.

    However, most of the time its format remains deeply tied to the traditional classroom setting. This relationship has its advantages and its disadvantages: it allows the learner to identify the usual key reference points but at the same time it can often fall short of the original classroom experience.



    Rethinking the class for the e-learner


    The attractiveness of a video-based course is a main factor in maintaining the learner’s attention. In most cases, a short video is preferable; yet a more vital aspect is the importance of preproduction in the process. When the content of a normal class is edited and transformed in postproduction in order to adapt it to the exigencies of MOOCs, it usually fails to get the learner’s attention and ensure memory retention. However, if the video is designed from the beginning to be used as a digital interface, the end result is improved.

    It can be effective to present the course specifically for e-learners: in which case, it is better to leave behind the usual classroom setting in favor of a more informal one like an office, such as a student might have one-on-one with the teacher. However, the main point is to consider the final product when presenting the course; for example, divide it in recognizable sections, regularly use key sentences, etc. This should be done keeping in mind the interactivity at play here: the learner may stop the video (especially for tutorials), go back to the beginning or even increase the speed of the video. The most innovative videos used in MOOCs are the figure-based ones. For a traditional PowerPoint presentation, a Khan-type video is preferable, with an interactive dashboard to integrate drawings and explications by the teacher.


    Combining text and image for an efficient content


    One cannot emphasize enough the importance of text-image synergy. For many years, studies have demonstrated the power of this synergy for improved memory retention. When the mind has to process varied and difficult input it will tend to focuses on one aspect but may get so distracted that retention becomes difficult. Scientific studies since the 1940s have shown that the most effective medium for memory retention is comic books; by combining text and images simultaneously (rather than in parallel, like a newspaper or a PWP), this type of medium doubles the strength of the idea or notion. According to Josh Elder, the 3 Es of comics are Engagement, Efficiency and Effectiveness. This technique is not only useful for educating children, but has a practical application when developing videos for MOOCs.

    What is a digital interface if not an interactive image-text combination? Yet, contemporary MOOCs or video-based devices in them do not take advantage of these unique memory enhancing options. Think about a drawing showing the different aspects of the course: the learner could click on the area that interests him, then enlarge to interfaces, texts, comic books or videos, and within videos find interactive items (as some e-learning courses already do on Youtube) to go to other infographics, videos or websites. We are already able to study the way students click, stop, go to another website or do a research during a video presentation. Proactive teaching method can be created by incorporating these other diversions (specific websites, short activities, tests in videos …) and ensuring their pedagogical quality.


    Video in MOOCs shouldn’t be used as a tool for already previewed course curriculums, but as an opportunity to reshape the course in itself, and eventually the way of teaching.


    Originally published at The Open Education Blog

    Video in MOOCs headline
  • "Technology has the potential to solve the problems of inequality"

    We talked recently to Alex Beard, director of System Change at Teach For All. Alex, who was a mentor in our 2014 edition, dedicates his time to relevant and timely projects; one such project is developing a vision for school education in the year 2030. He is an active member of the policy panel at Teach First and of Ashoka’s Changemaker Schools initiative.


    We asked Alex to give us his views on the future of education, a subject  both complex and compelling. As we expected, his point of view was innovative, personal and passionate.


    Technology… a tool to tackle inequality of access or a source of educational elitism?


    Technology has the potential to solve the problems of inequality. For the first time, any person on the planet can access higher education courses at Stanford or Harvard. In developing countries, distance learning techniques are bringing the best teachers to the hardest to reach kids. The work of Mandla Makhanya at the University of South Africa Online is a case in point, as is Urvashi Sahni’s work at Digital Study Hall, which builds on the Khan Academy model to provide in-class video support to struggling teachers in rural communities.



    This possibility though depends on five key tests for equality:


    • Connection – is there universal connectivity?
    • Platform – does every person have access to a platform to get online?
    • Content – is the best and most effective content available free or at low cost?
    • Teacher – is there a skilled teacher mediating the experience for the learners?
    • Learner – does the learner have sufficient competence and motivation to log on and do the learning?



    Applying these five key tests, it would appear that technology is currently increasing equality in some ways, whilst giving rise to new kinds of elitism. On the question of connectivity, it is not the case that all kids in Europe are online. Sure, most are. But that means a few aren’t; the ones that aren’t will be the ones already experiencing inequality. The same applies to the other points. However, I have great faith that because technology is quite cheap to scale, we’ll be able to achieve almost universal coverage quite soon. And then perhaps, we’ll see a huge increase in equality of access.

     alex beard photo_0


    The automated teacher: a modern fantasy


    I find the idea of an automated teacher to be the stuff of science fiction. If you look at the types of jobs that machines are taking over, they tend to include ‘routine manual’, ‘routine cognitive’ and ‘non-routine manual’. The kinds of jobs that humans are still needed to do are the ‘non-routine cognitive’ and ‘non-routine interpersonal’. For me, you could define teaching as being all about non-routine cognitive and non-routine interpersonal skills. That is what it is. Happily, in a famous recent academic paper about which jobs computers are going to take over in the next 20 years, it was found that teaching and its related activities are in the top 10% of jobs least likely to be automated.

    However, I will make two concessions. First, I think that we can automate a number of things that take place in schools – the routine manual and cognitive tasks. This includes things like sending a text to a parent if their child has detention, carrying out an analysis of data at the school or local system level, or doing a quick group test and analysing the results at the end of the lesson. These things are happening already. Second, I know that advocates of Artificial Intelligence will say that soon we’ll have machines capable of non-routine analytic and interpersonal skills. If that is so, perhaps they’ll make great teachers.


    The practical effects of educative innovations


    Too frequently there is a divide between the creators of technology and the end users, or the key users. This means that in education you get a lot of inventions that make a lot of money for companies, and that administrators really like, but they end up adding no value on the ground for kids. One great example of this is the Interactive Whiteboard. In the UK there is one in every classroom, but there’s no evidence that it is more effective than the blackboard. It would be quite easy to run a control trial of this, and I’m surprised no one has.


    [Alex Beard then recommended taking a look at the evaluation work done  at Pearson with their Efficacy Unit; at OEC we wrote a blog post a few months back on this topic.]



    Originally published at The Open Education Blog

    alex beard - headline
  • Trends and Success in MOOCs

    Class Central has established a list of the most popular MOOCs starting in January 2015, based on how many Class Central users have added this particular course to MOOC Tracker. Here are the results:


    1  Introduction to Linux

    | Linux Foundation via edX


    2 A beginners’ guide to writing in English for university study

    | University of Reading via FutureLearn


    3 Entrepreneurship 101: Who is your customer?

    | MIT via edX


    4 StatLearning: Statistical Learning

    | Stanford OpenEdx


    5 Managing People: Engaging your Workforce

    | University of Reading via FutureLearn


    6 Managing my money

    | The Open University via FutureLearn


    7 Introduction to Nutrition – Food for Health

    | Wageningen University via edX


    8 Embedded Systems – Shape The World

    | The University of Texas at Austin via edX


    9 Linear Algebra – Foundations to Frontiers

    | The University of Texas at Austin via edX


    10 Introduction to Cyber Security

    | The Open University via FutureLearn


    Using the same method, Class Central also compiled a list of the 10 most anticipated MOOCs for 2015 and, more interestingly, a list of the 10 most successful MOOCs of 2014. Here are the names of the MOOCs:


    Developing Innovative Ideas for New Companies: The First Step in Entrepreneurship (via University of Maryland, College Park | Coursera); Introduction to Statistics (via Stanford University | Udacity); Learning How to Learn: Powerful mental tools to help you master tough subjects (via University of California, San Diego | Coursera); Introduction to Computer Science (via University of Virginia | Udacity); Principles of Project Management (via Polytechnic West | Open2Study); Introduction to Computer Science (via Harvard University | edX); Inspiring Leadership through Emotional Intelligence (via Case Western Reserve University | Coursera); Introduction to Finance (via University of Michigan | Coursera): Strategic Management (Open2Study), R Programming (via Johns Hopkins University | Coursera).


    A few tendencies can be inferred from these lists. STEM courses have historically been very popular, ever since the first platforms originated from MIT and Stanford. The large majority of courses in these two lists are linked to management skills or to technology; two separate courses titled “Introduction to Computer Science” are in the top of the 2014 list! The most popular MOOCs are more likely to be linked with such fields; for example, Sebastian Thrun’s Artificial Intelligence and MITx’s 6.002x (Circuits and Electronics) attracted more than 150,000 students.

    On the other hand, the two previously cited Class Central lists do not include any humanities courses, as might be expected when one considers the general trend. However, the lack of popularity of such courses needs to be understood in context as these lists apply to Class Central users, who belong to a specific market, often employees looking to improve their managerial or technological skills.


    Indeed, MOOCs are still mainly used by learners with previous degrees (75% of people in its system already have a bachelor’s degree) and thus are more viewed as a mechanism for professional development than a real alternative to higher education. The personal development courses followed by Class Central users (money, food health…) reflect the narrow range of use of MOOCs today. Despite the big numbers (MOOCs are massively used and platforms grow very quickly), MOOCs still have to be promoted to meet the needs of other groups of learners  if we want to fully capitalise on their potential within the realm of higher education.


    Originally published at The Open Education Blog

    top moocs 2015 headline - copia

The Judges

Grace Gould

Grace Gould

Early stage investor at Index Ventures
Marcelo Burbano

Marcelo Burbano

Founding partner of INNCUBATED
Daniel Zajfman

Daniel Zajfman

President of the Weizmann Institute


Head of Unit at European Commission

Gila Ben-Har

CEO of the Center for Educational Technology

David Weinberger

Co-director, Harvard Library Innovation Lab

Renee Hobbs

Director at Harrington School of Communication
Bob Wise

Governor Bob Wise

President of the Alliance for Excellent Education

The Startup


Spongelab is a learning technology company and a leader in advancing the integration of game-based simulation technologies with data-driven, gamified, adaptive learning technologies for formal education, professional training, and healthcare communication.

Our design approach is based on building content-rich immersive teaching tools designed around discovery-based learning approaches that are intimately woven into the fabric of platform technologies and gamified user experiences.

STITCH™ is our gamified data-driven learning platform technology. It’s a cloud-based learning system designed to supply “learning as a service” following SaaS and enterprise models of software delivery, but designed to be a complete service – a unique approach from traditional EdTech initiatives.
STITCH uses a blended approach to address both the technology workflow and the practical utility and motivation of the required users and stakeholders. This makes STITCH an integral component of advanced learning ecosystems – providing a complete solution, or letting organizations select features to enhance their current learning technology infrastructure.
Contact Us

about us

The Global EdTech Awards competition is joint initiative of MindCET, The Open Education Challenge, Wayra UK, EdTech Incubator and Inncubated.



MindCET is an EdTech innovation center which brings together entrepreneurs, educators and researchers to develop innovative groundbreaking educational technology in Israel and beyond. MindCET is an independent body within the Center for Educational Technology (CET).


The Open Education Challenge

The Open Education Challenge, launched in 2014 in partnership with the European Commission, is an opportunity for cutting-edge education startups to receive mentoring and seed funding through the European Incubator for Innovation in Education, and get direct access to investors from day one.

Wayra UK


EdTech Incubator

The UK and Europe’s first education technology accelerator programme led by The Education Foundation, in partnership with the Tech City Investment Organisation.



InncubatED is the first incubator in Latin America that focuses on bringing innovation to the education industry by promoting and accelerating Startups in the Edtech space.