NOU 2014: 5

MOOCs for Norway— New digital learning methods in higher education

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1 Introduction

1.1 The Commission’s mandate

The Commission was appointed by Royal Decree on 21 June 2013 and given the following mandate:

Textbox 1.1 Mandate

Recently, there has been a rapid growth in Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) and similar educational provisions. MOOCs are free courses supplied through the Internet via streaming video from higher education institutions and from companies that collaborate with such institutions. Large, renowned institutions such as Harvard, Stanford and MIT have fronted the development, and an increasing number of institutions across the globe are now offering MOOCs. In principle, anyone may now attend courses taught by the world’s leading academics. The only requirement is Internet access. Millions of people across the world are taking advantage of this opportunity.

The Commission shall investigate which possibilities and challenges accompany the development of MOOCs and similar offers. The Commission shall map the development, compare the information gathered, and provide Norwegian authorities and educational institutions with recommendations on how to relate to this development, while also taking advantage of the opportunities provided by modern technology. Due to rapid developments in this field, the Commission is preparing for a two-step process:

  1. The Commission will present its first report by the end of 2013. This report shall contain an overview of the development, along with some principal recommendations based on the following issues:

    • What is the scope and development of MOOCs and who are the actors – both nationally and internationally?

    • What are the driving forces behind their development and which players and offers are likely to succeed?

    • Which professional support networks are being established in connection with these educational services?

    • What impact will this development have on Norway from a broad societal perspective?

  2. In the summer of 2014, the Commission will present a more detailed report, including proposals on how Norway should respond to these developments.

In both step 1 and step 2, the Commission is required to specifically consider which possibilities and challenges the development of MOOCs and similar offers may create in the following areas:

  • Higher education, for example

    • Educational grants and loans

    • Financing of study programmes

    • Accreditation and quality assurance

    • Quality in higher education and research-based education

    • Strategic use of MOOCs

    • Cooperation, division of labour and concentration (SAK)

    • Image-building

    • International cooperation

    • Universal design

  • Lifelong learning/continuing and further education, for example

    • Skills upgrades in working life, including small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs)

    • Regional collaboration between commerce and industry, working life and educational institutions, including development of tailored programmes for continuing and further education in cooperation with social partners in working life.

The Commission shall consider and quantify administrative and economic consequences of the actions proposed. The Commission shall consider at least one proposal that can be accomplished without expanding the use of resources within the higher education sector.

1.2 The Commission’s members and secretariat

The Commission was appointed with the following members:

  • Berit Kjeldstad, Professor of Physics and Pro-Rector for Education at Norwegian University of Science and Technology (chair)

  • Harald Alvestrand, Software Engineer, Google

  • Mathis Bongo, Assistant Professor of Education/Pedagogy, Sámi University College

  • June Breivik, Chief Developer of BI Learninglab and e-learning

  • Endre Olsvik Elvestad, Student, Norwegian University of Science and Technology

  • Ola Erstad, Professor of Education, University of Oslo

  • Eva Gjerdrum, Director General, Norway Opening Universities

  • Trond Ingebretsen, Director of the Norwegian Centre for ICT in Education

  • Arne Krokan, Professor of Sociology, Norwegian University of Science and Technology

  • Bergljot Landstad, Head of Regional and Economic Development, Møre og Romsdal County Authority

  • Ingrid Melve, CTO of UNINETT (develops and operates the Norwegian national research and education network – transl. note)

The Commission’s secretariat has consisted of:

  • Berit Johnsen, Deputy Director General (chair of the secretariat)

  • Bjørn Tore Bertheussen, Senior Advisor

  • Simen Rommetveit Halvorsen, Senior Advisor

  • Frode Hauge, Senior Advisor

  • André Løvik, Head of Section

1.3 The Commission’s work

The Commission held its first meeting on 22 August 2013 at the Ministry of Education and Research (KD). The meeting was opened by Rolf L. Larsen, Deputy Director General and Deputy Head of KD’s Department of Higher Education, and Eivind Heder, Director-General of the Department of Policy Analysis, Lifelong Learning and International Affairs, with a presentation on the background of the mandate and Commission’s appointment. Reference was e.g. made to the fact that the MOOC Commission’s mandate must be viewed in the context of other commission work and ongoing processes within higher education.

The Commission is asked to provide an assessment of what challenges and opportunities are expected to accompany the emergence of MOOCs and similar provisions as regards higher education. In the context of this report, when the Commission mentions higher education in Norway, this also includes higher education in, about and using the Sámi language. In the context of this report, when the Commission mentions working life, this includes both the public and private sectors.

The Commission held four committee meetings in Oslo during the autumn of 2013: 22 August, 18 September, 17 October and 20 November. During the spring of 2014, the Commission held four committee meetings, one in Lausanne, Switzerland on 10 February and three in Oslo: 12 March, 9 April and 30 April. The meeting in Lausanne was held in connection with the Commission’s participation in the conference “European MOOCs Stakeholders Summit 2014”.

At the commission meeting on 18 September, Paul Chaffey, former CEO of NHO’s (the Confederation of Norwegian Enterprise’s) Business Association for Norwegian knowledge and technology-based enterprises (Abelia), was invited to speak about upgrading skills in business and the labour market. Deputy Director General Anne Line Wold and Senior Advisor Øystein Holmedal-Hagen from KD were invited to inform the Commission about the financing system in higher education and student fee rules, respectively.

At the commission meeting on 17 October, Senior Advisor Toril Måseide and Senior Advisor Tone Flood Strøm from KD were invited to speak about the educational support system and system for quality assurance, accreditation and recognition in higher education, respectively.

The Commission has established its own Facebook page, as well as a website for the MOOC Commission on On Facebook the Commission has invited input during the progress of their work.

In order to get the best possible knowledge basis, the Commission has ordered more external input. Most of the commission members have also contributed memos on various issues.

The following external persons and organisations have provided written contributions:

  • Vice president Frode Arntsen and Head of Product Centre Arve Olaussen, BIBSYS

  • Advisor Nora Clark, University of Agder

  • Senior Advisor Märtha Felton and Advisor Maren Jegersberg, University Center for Information Technology (USIT), University of Oslo (UiO)

  • Senior Advisor Helge Halvorsen, the Confederation of Norwegian Enterprise

  • Assistant Professor Gisle Hannemyr, UiO

  • Senior Advisor Bent Kure, USIT, UiO

  • Section Manager Jon Lanestedt, USIT, UiO

  • Vice president Torhild Slåtto, Flexible Education Norway

  • Director of study and research Jan Atle Toska, University of Nordland

  • Secretary General Gard Titlestad, International Council for Open and Distance Education

  • Professor Olav Torvund, Norwegian Research Center for Computers and Law, UiO

  • Project team for evaluation of MOOC platforms for UiO, consisting of Jesper Kjellemyr Havrevold, Tomm Eriksen, Tore Bredeli Jørgensen, Svein Harald Kleivane, Bent Kure and Hans Magnus Mikaelsen Nedreberg, USIT, UiO

  • Norwegian Association of Local and Regional Authorities (KS)

  • Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions (LO)

  • The National Coordinator of Accessibility of Higher Education (Universell)

  • Norwegian Agency for Quality Assurance in Education (NOKUT)

  • National Union of Students in Norway

  • Norwegian Centre for International Cooperation in Education (SIU)

  • Unio (trade union confederation – transl. note)

  • The Norwegian Association of Higher Education Institutions

  • Confederation of Vocational Unions

The unions Akademikerne and Spekter were also invited to provide input.

The Ministry of Education and Research and the Norwegian Centre for ICT in Education have provided a secretariat and have also contributed materials and input beyond this. Senior Advisor Borghild Abusland in KD has made a special contribution, e.g. by proofreading.

The mandate tasked the Commission with submitting an interim report by the end of 2013. The Commission submitted the interim report “Tid for MOOC” (Time for MOOCs) to the Ministry of Education and Research on 13 December 2013. The content of the interim report has been developed further and has been incorporated as part of the Commission's final recommendation. The interim report has been translated into English.1

1.4 The structure of the report

The report is divided into the following chapters:

Chap. 1: Introduction

Chap. 2: The Commission’s definition of MOOCs

Chap. 3: The Commission’s recommendations

Chap. 4: MOOCs in a social perspective

Chap. 5: From flexible education to MOOCs

Chap. 6: The emergence of MOOCs

Chap. 7: Participants in MOOCs

Chap. 8: Documentation of competence achieved

Chap. 9: MOOCs in Norwegian higher education

Chap. 10: Quality and learning outcomes

Chap. 11: How to offer MOOCs?

Chap. 12: Copyrights and open access

Chap. 13: Cooperation, specialisation and competition

Chap. 14: Skills needed in working life

Chap. 15: Accelerated education and open admission to MOOCs

Chap. 16: The principle of free education and student fees

Chap. 17: Education support

Chap. 18: Economic and administrative consequences of the Commission’s recommendations

Appendix 1: Copyrights related to traditional education and to MOOCs

Appendix 2: Handling of copyrights and licensing of course materials in connection with MOOCs

Chapter 1 gives an account of the Commission’s mandate, the members of the Commission and the secretariat, the Commission’s work and the structure of the report. Chapter 2 describes the characteristics of MOOCs, as well as the Commission’s definition of the terms “MOOC” and “similar provisions”. Chapter 3 gives an overall presentation if the Commission's recommendations in the report.

In Chapter 4, the development of MOOCs is put in a wider social perspective, nationally and globally, emphasising how web-based courses such as MOOCs may contribute to a knowledge-based society and, in turn, growth and prosperity. Chapter 5 gives an account of the development of flexible education and technological infrastructure in higher education in Norway.

Chapters 6–8 describe various aspects of the emergence of MOOCs. In chapters 9–17, the Commission considers MOOCs against different topics, and gives recommendations on how Norwegian authorities, educational institutions and players in working life shall deal with the development and utilise the opportunities offered by the technological development. Chapter 18 gives an account of the economic and administrative consequences of the Commission’s recommendations.



The MOOC Commission (2013) Time for MOOCs. The MOOC Commission's interim report of 13 December 2013. Also available in English at: nb/dep/kd/dep/styrer-rad-og-utvalg/utvalg-om- hoyere-utdanningstilbud-pa-net.html?id=732679 (Retrieved: 5 May 2014).

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