15 Accelerated education and open admission to MOOCs
Internationally, one of the hallmarks of MOOCs is that courses are open and accessible to all. The principle of open access challenges current regulations for higher education in Norway if participants want a course diploma with credits that can be incorporated into a degree programme.
Pursuant to the Universities and University Colleges Act, only students who meet the requirements for admission to higher education, have the right to sit for examinations.1 Higher Education Entrance Qualification is the most common path to higher education and is achieved in part through the completion of three years of upper secondary school, vocational subjects with supplementary courses or the 23/5 rule.2 If you are 25 and have relevant experience in a field you want to study, you can be admitted to higher education on the basis of prior learning. You can also be admitted in any study through alternative admission, for example, through the so-called y-track (based on vocational experience and certification).3
The requirements for admission to universities and university colleges apply to both degree programmes and continuing education courses where credits are earned. Current regulations for admission to higher education are thus an obstacle to open admission to MOOCs with exams and credits at Norwegian institutions. Nor do the rules for admission as described above apply to shorter courses and continuing education where credits are not earned.
Current regulations for admission to higher education have basically made it challenging for pupils from upper secondary schools to take courses that earn credits at universities or university colleges. As a result of the Knowledge Promotion Reform, emphasis was placed on systematising collaboration between higher education institutions and upper secondary education. The goal was a tailored programme so that upper secondary pupils can attend higher education classes. The programme is called accelerated education and also means that these pupils will be able to earn credits for examinations taken at a university or university college when they have met the admission requirements to higher education. This means that the pupils can take courses that can later be part of a degree while they attend upper secondary school.4 The credits that pupils earn will count in the funding system for universities and university colleges on a par with that given to regular students.
Pupils who have passed an exam can receive a grade transcript from the university or university college. If pupils take an exam that is substantially different from that taken by regular students in the same course, this should be noted on the transcript.
Pupils participating in the programme will normally have the same requirements for assignments, exams and other mandatory activities required of ordinary students taking the course. The requirement to be admitted to the programmes is normally a grade of 5 or 6 from upper secondary education. If there are more applicants than available places, applicants will be ranked on the basis of grades in the subject. Such programmes at the university or university college level that are adapted to pupils in upper secondary education, normally require physical proximity to education institutions. The number of participating pupils has therefore so far been limited. For example, the University of Oslo offered mathematics courses to 30 pupils from Oslo and Akershus County in the spring of 2013.
Lower secondary level pupils have the opportunity to accelerate studies by taking upper secondary courses while they are in lower secondary school, cf. Section 1–15 of the Regulations to the Education Act. The programme is most relevant for pupils who can travel to a nearby upper secondary school and attend classes there. When the programme was introduced in 2008/2009, 622 lower secondary school pupils took exams in upper secondary school subjects. In 2013/2014, 1 414 lower secondary school pupils took upper secondary school subjects. 911 of them came from the counties of Oslo, Akershus, Vestfold and Buskerud.5 Through “The virtual mathematics school”, lower secondary school pupils have been offered digital access to Mathematics 1T (first subject in upper secondary school). These pupils have been given access to digital resources (videos, quizzes, assignments) and have participated in a virtual class with teachers and peers located elsewhere.
15.2 The Commission’s considerations
Applicants’ academic qualifications have been an important reason for admission to higher education. Physical and academic capacity constraints at education institutions is another factor that has traditionally entailed a need for admission regulation in higher education. The Commission believes that the national need to regulate admission to credit-earning courses will be less for a MOOC than for ordinary campus studies in higher education. Scalable MOOCs do not have a physical ceiling on the number of participants who can follow a course. An open, digital gateway that provides access to the knowledge that higher education offers, will have a positive impact on skills development for individuals, the Norwegian labour market and for society as a whole.
The Commission therefore believes that open access is a dimension that is desirable to strive for in Norwegian MOOCs. The Commission also sees that broader digital access for all groups of participants in higher education may have fundamental and economic consequences and repercussions for regular campus education.
The Commission believes issues related to open access for all, regardless of background, must be considered more thoroughly and as a matter of principle. Experience from MOOCs can be valuable contributions in the evaluation. The Commission therefore recommends trial admissions to MOOCs at Norwegian institutions for applicants who do not satisfy requirements for admission to higher education.
The experience with pupils who take accelerated education appears to have been positive. This shows that university colleges and universities can find flexible arrangements for adapting a higher education programme to pupils from upper secondary schools. Geographical distance and a small number of places limits how many upper secondary school pupils can be included in this scheme.
The Commission believes that more talented pupils in primary and secondary schools should be offered accelerated education. The Commission therefore believes that efforts should be made centrally to facilitate MOOCs for pupils in primary and secondary education. Courses in other subjects should also be developed. The Commission believes that such offers will serve as an academic stimulus for capable and motivated pupils. It will also provide an increased understanding of subject choices in higher education and can thus form the basis for more informed study choices.
15.3 The Commission’s recommendations
The Commission therefore recommends trial admissions to credit-earning MOOCs for applicants who do not satisfy traditional requirements for admission to higher education.
The Commission recommends that preparations be made to allow more pupils in primary and secondary school to take accelerated education as MOOCs.
The Ministry of Education and Research (2007) Regulations relating to admission to higher education, FOR-2007-01-31-173. Last amended FOR-2014-03-20-340.?? Available from: http://lovdata.no/document/SF/regulation/ 2007-01-31-173 (Retrieved: 15 May 2014).
You turn at least 23 during the admission year, have successfully completed higher education entrance qualification subjects and have at least 5 years of education or work experience.
The Ministry of Education and Research (2009) Report No. 44 (2008–2009) to the Storting Education strategy.
Ryste, H. T. (2014) “Vil tilby videregående fag til flere” (Will offer upper secondary subjects to more pupils), Bergens Tidende, 28 March 2014.