18 Economic and administrative consequences of the Commission’s recommendations
The mandate tasked the Commission with recommending how Norway should relate to the development of MOOCs. The Commission shall examine and quantify the economic and administrative consequences of its proposals, of which at least one proposal can be implemented within unchanged use of resources in the higher education sector. Chapters 18.1 and 18.2 assess the economic and administrative consequences of the Commission’s recommendations. In Chapter 18.2, the Commission considers the manner in which the recommendations can be funded.
The Commission believes that MOOCs will help further develop the Norwegian knowledge society by expanding access to and quality of higher education, and will be a good tool for skills development in the workplace and for lifelong learning.
The Commission believes that the Norwegian authorities, education institutions and social partners should have high ambitions of quickly exploiting the opportunities arising from MOOCs.
The Commission is of the opinion that, to date, digitisation of higher education in Norway has not been fast enough, and that the institutions’ implementation capacity has been too weak. If the responsibility is placed solely on the institutions, the Commission believes that the development will not proceed quickly enough. The Commission therefore believes that national authorities must facilitate increased digitisation of higher education and the development of MOOCs through incentives and development funds to support the institutions’ work. The national initiative should last over a five-year period. The need for further initiatives beyond this period should be considered.
The Commission believes that there is a need for a joint initiative by the authorities amounting to NOK 130–380 million annually over five years. At the same time, the institutions must be aware of their responsibilities and take clear steps to stay abreast of the developments the Commission believes will take place. The Commission therefore also directs a number of recommendations directly at the institutions.
18.1 Recommendations to the authorities
18.1.1 National initiative with budgetary consequences
The Commission recommends a national initiative amounting to NOK 130–380 million annually over five years. The need for further initiatives beyond this period should be considered. The Commission believes the initiative is necessary to enable institutions to quickly provide MOOCs of high quality and relevance, and to the extent the Commission deems necessary.
The national initiative consists of six recommendations directed at the authorities:
The Commission recommends that preparations be made to give Norwegian institutions access to one or more MOOC platforms adapted to Norwegian and Sámi languages, as well as to the profile of Norwegian institutions (Chapter 11).
The Commission recommends that preparations be made to allow the institutions to use a central support function in the development of MOOCs. A primary objective for this support function is to assist in the development of relevant educational and technological skills at higher education institutions (Chapter 11).
Total amount: NOK 40 million.
The Commission recommends systematic effort towards research-based knowledge development regarding use of technology in higher education (Chapter 10).
Total amount: NOK 15 million.
The Commission recommends establishing a community for research-based knowledge development, development work and knowledge sharing related to learning analytics (Chapter 10).
Total amount: NOK 15 million.
The Commission recommends allocating public funds for a major public initiative relating to skills development using MOOCs, which will require collaboration between the authorities and social partners. The distribution of the funds can be done in various ways, and must be considered in more detail by the public authorities (Chapter 14).
Total amount: NOK 50–300 million.
The Commission recommends that preparations be made to allow more pupils in primary and secondary education to take accelerated education as MOOCs (Chapter 15).
Total amount: NOK 10 million.
The Commission believes the authorities should facilitate infrastructure and support systems that make it possible for Norwegian institutions to develop and offer high-quality MOOCs. Firstly, Norwegian institutions must have access to one or more MOOC platforms. Secondly, a national support function must be built for the institutions that they can use in developing MOOCs. A primary objective of this support function will be to assist in the development of relevant educational and technological expertise in the higher education sector. An offer of support services is already under development by BIBSYS. This offer is currently on a small scale, and is aimed at the few MOOCs that are already under development. The costs of developing and providing access to MOOC platforms that include both technological and pedagogical support will increase along with the development of MOOCs. The majority of costs will be for the support services. The offer must be developed as the scope of MOOCs increases. The Commission estimates that the total annual appropriation should be a minimum of NOK 40 million.
The Commission recommends the initiation of a systematic effort towards research-based knowledge about the use of technology in higher education. The annual commitment should be NOK 15 million. In addition, the Commission proposes the establishment of a community for research, development and knowledge sharing related to learning analysis. The annual commitment should be 15 million. The structure and form of the two measures must be examined vis-à-vis the current players and policy instruments.
The Commission believes that MOOCs can boost the skills needed in the workplace. It is the Commission's opinion that substantial public co-funding is required in the initial phase of a few years in order to exploit the potential of MOOCs in a large-scale commitment to continuing and further education. For example, in 2014, the Ministry of Education and Research allocated NOK 10 million to the Centre for ICT in Education to develop MOOCs for further education of mathematics teachers. The Commission believes that NOK 50 million annually is a minimum of what is required to get started with development and testing of MOOCs for continuing and further education. The Commission believes that the need is far greater than this, given Norway’s ambition as a knowledge society. The Commission refers to input from organisations in working life documenting a large unmet need for expertise, cf. Chapter 14. The Commission therefore recommends escalation towards a significantly higher amount than NOK 50 million a year, but has not examined the cost requirements in detail. The Commission therefore recommends allocating NOK 50–300 million annually to a greater commitment to continuing and further education. The distribution of funds may be done in various ways, and must be considered in more detail by the public authorities. For example, the funds can be made available to labour market players that actively seek to develop their skills. The Commission emphasises that skills measures must be a collaboration between working life and government.
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 education to take accelerated education as MOOCs. The Commission believes that NOK 10 million should be appropriated annually for the development of such programmes.
18.1.2 Recommendations to the authorities within applicable budget limits
In addition, the Commission recommends a number of national initiatives supporting the main initiatives mentioned above, and which can be funded within the current financial framework:
The Commission recommends that Norwegian MOOCs be aggregated and promoted through a dedicated national portal (Chapter 11).
The Commission recommends that Norway initiate a Nordic cooperation with the objective of a joint initiative to promote Nordic MOOCs internationally (Chapter 11).
Open learning resources
The Commission recommends establishing an overview of available open digital learning resources for higher education (Chapter 12).
The Commission is of the opinion that Norwegian authorities should work actively, also internationally, to promote the principle of open digital learning resources and open access in higher education (Chapter 12).
The Commission is of the opinion that Norwegian MOOCs in principle shall be free of charge (Chapter 16).
The Commission recommends trials with admission to credit-earning MOOCs for applicants who do not fulfil applicable requirements for admission to higher education (Chapter 15).
MOOCs with exams and credits, both from Norwegian and foreign institutions, may be included in the current degree system. Consequently, the Commission does not see the need for changing the Norwegian regulations for accreditation and crediting of subjects (Chapter 9).
18.1.3 Recommendations to the authorities regarding further studies
In this recommendation the Commission has assessed how the MOOC development affects a number of areas within higher education. In the following areas the Commission sees a need for more detailed study and consideration than what the Commission has been able to do:
The Commission believes that there is a need for stronger incentives for increased teaching quality, as well as for more innovative types of learning. The Commission therefore recommends a review of the general range of policy instruments and incentive schemes for the education area at the individual, institution and national level (Chapter 10).
The Commission believes that it is necessary to strengthen the digital skills of employees in the higher education sector. The scope must, however, be mapped in more detail. The Commission recommends that funds be granted to strengthen digital skills (Chapter 10).
Infrastructure and rights
The Commission recommends that questions regarding handling of identity in MOOCs be included in the assessments regarding digital evaluation and exams (Chapter 10).
The Commission recommends that the questions relating to copyright and licensing be considered more closely in order to make it easier to develop open MOOCs (Chapter 12).
The Commission recommends a national assessment of how the institutions’ practice of crediting subjects can be improved (Chapter 9).
The MOOC Commission recommends having the Ministry-appointed commission tasked with assessing skills outside the formal education system also assess skills developed through MOOCs without exams and credits (Chapter 9).
The Commission recommends that the Ministry evaluate the Student Fees Regulation in order to clarify the institutions’ leeway as regards payment for MOOCs (Chapter 16).
The Commission recommends examining whether educational support should be granted to participants in MOOCs and other web-based courses with a flexible student work load and duration (Chapter 17).
The Commission recommends examining whether educational support should be granted to students taking MOOCs and other web-based courses, both inside and outside the EU/EEA (Chapter 17).
The Commission recommends that financial consequences relating to foreign students must be included in the reviews of changes to the educational support scheme proposed by the Commission (Chapter 17).
The Commission finds that the Ministry of Education and Research, in partnership with relevant parties, must initiate the different studies mentioned above. The Commission believes that the studies can be carried out within the framework of the Ministry of Education and Research or by already appointed commissions.
18.1.4 Recommendations to the funding committee
A committee has been appointed to review and evaluate the funding scheme for higher education. The MOOC Commission has made two recommendations to this committee:
The Commission recommends that incentives and policy instruments supporting cooperation, division of labour and specialisation between the institutions be considered by the committee that will review and evaluate the funding system for the Norwegian higher education sector (Chapter 13).
The Commission recommends that cooperation between universities and university colleges and the private and public sectors be used as an incentive in the funding system for higher education (Chapter 14).
If MOOCs continue developing at the same rate in Norway as we have seen internationally, the Commission believes that several aspects of MOOCs could challenge the current financing of higher education institutions. If Norwegian institutions gradually develop a considerable number of credit-earning MOOCs, and a large number of Norwegian and international students use such services, this could result in increased credit production, and thus funding, for the institutions. Total allocations to higher education in Norway could also be affected if many Norwegian students choose MOOCs abroad, and if this provides the right to educational support. The development of MOOCs could thus increase the need for growth in higher education allocations. These are important issues that must be assessed at a national level, and by the commission tasked with assessing the financing of higher education institutions.
18.2 Recommendations to universities and university colleges
In Norway, universities and university colleges are responsible for developing study programmes and ensuring the quality of the courses. The institutions consequently also have a special responsibility to adopt the measures they deem appropriate to support the quality of the courses. The Commission believes that the digitisation of education by developing and offering MOOCs, would be good instruments for the institutions’ work on quality. In Norway, MOOCs play only a modest role in universities and university colleges’ overall strategies. Several of the Commission’s proposals are therefore directed at the institutions:
The Commission recommends that experience and knowledge from the work on quality in flexible and web-based education be applied in the development of MOOCs (Chapter 10).
The Commission recommends that the institutions further develop employee skills in use of technology in education (Chapter 10).
The Commission recommends that the institutions take responsibility for further development of students’ digital skills (Chapter 10).
The Commission presumes that the institutions base their development of MOOCs on the principles of universal design (Chapter 10).
The Commission recommends that the institutions test new types of educational assessment and exams (Chapter 10).
Infrastructure and rights
The Commission recommends that, in developing MOOCs, the education institutions clarify appropriate agreements for the students’ and employees’ rights to their own material (Chapter 12).
The Commission recommends that the consideration for universal design be safeguarded when choosing the platform (Chapter 11).
The Commission believes that the institutions must facilitate a more streamlined practice for crediting subjects across Norwegian institutions (Chapter 9).
The Commission is of the opinion that the institutions must develop good schemes for evaluating the overall qualifications of persons who have completed MOOCs (Chapter 9).
The Commission encourages Norwegian institutions to utilise the opportunities provided by MOOCs for professional cooperation, division of labour, specialisation and efficient exploitation of resources (Chapter 13).
The Commission recommends that Norwegian institutions that want international cooperation on MOOCs take advantage of the opportunities for European cooperation presented by the EU’s Erasmus+ education programme (Chapter 13).
The Commission recommends that the education institutions and social partners strengthen their cooperation as regards continuing and further education, and that MOOCs be used as an instrument in this work (Chapter 14).
Higher education institutions have extensive authority to make their own priorities and choices when it comes to use of resources. In the opinion of the Commission, the institutions have greater opportunities to develop and test MOOCs than what has been done so far. MOOCs must be seen as an instrument for educational development, and should be prioritised and implemented in the same way as the institutions otherwise carry out quality development of education programmes within their allocated resources.
18.3 Funding of the Commission’s recommendations
Digitisation of education and development of MOOCs can help improve the quality of education, increase access to education and enhance skills in social and working life. Use of MOOCs can also facilitate academic cooperation, division of labour and specialisation in the higher education sector. Overall, this can contribute to better and more efficient use of resources in the sector and society at large. The Commission has not quantified the social consequences of this.
The Commission believes the potential for more efficient resource utilisation is considerable. How much of this potential can be realised will depend on the extent to which the institutions are able to exploit the opportunities provided by the use of technology and MOOCs. The freed-up resources can be used to enhance the quality of education, including through the proposed measures the Commission directs at the institutions in this recommendation.
Proposals with budget consequences
The Commission believes that, in a five year period, national authorities must take responsibility along with the institutions. The Commission proposes the allocation of national funds for an national initiative for MOOC development, cf. Chapter 18.1. The Commission has proposed measures within the national initiative amounting to NOK 130–380 million annually. Funding for the development of digital skills in the sector will depend on the proposed study on this subject, and will be in addition. The Commission believes that the national initiative should primarily be achieved through increased appropriations over the national budget.
Another way to fund the Commission’s proposals on national measures within the current framework is to set aside strategic national funds within the aggregate, current appropriation to the universities and university colleges. Parts of the current strategic funds in the funding system must be reprioritised and set aside specifically for the digitisation of higher education and MOOC development. This will be a scheme pursuant to the model for allocating cooperation, division of labour and concentration (SAK) funds, cf. Chapter 13.
Recommendations within the current budget framework
The Commission recommends a number of measures that will not require specific additional financial resources in order to be implemented.
Many of the Commission’s proposals are aimed directly at the universities and university colleges. Within their own budget frameworks, the institutions are responsible, among other things, for developing and ensuring the quality of their programmes and developing the skills of personnel. The Commission believes that the institutions increasingly need to utilise the available latitude in prioritising their own budget frameworks and developing clearer objectives and measures related to the digitisation of education and development of MOOCs. The Commission therefore believes that the proposals aimed at universities and university colleges can be implemented within the current framework. These are discussed in Chapter 18.2.
The Commission believes funding of the studies can take place within the Ministry of Education and Research’s budget framework or within already appointed commissions. These proposals are discussed in Chapter 18.1.3.