NOU 2014: 5

MOOCs for Norway— New digital learning methods in higher education

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3 The Commission’s recommendations

The technological development creates opportunities and challenges for Norway. This also applies to the educational sector, e.g. through the development of new education technology and digital services, the development of innovative forms of learning and other methods for distributing knowledge and education.

Internationally we see increased competition for students and a strong need for promotion among higher education institutions. Employers, students and the authorities have high expectations to the quality of the education being offered. In countries with highly strained budgets, the educational sector is also faced with demands for more cost effectiveness. The growth in skills-based trade and industry increases the need for access to higher education, and working life’s need for expertise development is increasing.

The MOOC development creates new opportunities and challenges. One possibility is to make high-quality education easily available for an increasing number of groups in the population. At the same time, MOOCs could be a policy instrument for Norwegian institutions for international image-building and collaboration. One challenge would be that Norwegian institutions will encounter increased competition for students from international institutions. The competition for students will also increase among the Norwegian education institutions.

If Norwegian institutions are to stand out in the increased competition, they must have the innovative ability and capacity to utilise the opportunities provided by MOOCs. The Commission believes that MOOCs should lead to changes in how the institutions organise their education, thus contributing to increased quality and relevance in their offers.

The Norwegian Government has appointed a commission to consider the opportunities and challenges resulting from the development of MOOCs, to map the development, gather knowledge and give recommendations as to how Norwegian authorities and institutions shall relate to the development, and use the opportunities offered by the technological development. This provides some strategic advantages for the further development of MOOCs in Norway. However, if the opportunities of MOOCs are to be exploited, this requires a will to reorganise and make a serious effort on the part of the authorities and the institutions themselves.

The MOOC Commission is proposing several specific measures. The measures, which are proposed funded by the authorities through special initiatives, will amount to annual investments of NOK 130–380 million.

3.1 Recommendations to the authorities

3.1.1 National initiative with budgetary consequences

The Commission is of the opinion that digitalisation of higher education in Norway has not progressed quickly enough, and that the institutions’ ability to deliver has been too weak.1 If the responsibility is placed solely on the institutions, the Commission feels that the development will not proceed quickly enough. Consequently, the Commission is of the opinion that national authorities must facilitate increased digitalisation of higher education through national initiatives to support the institutions’ work in developing MOOCs. The national initiative should take place over a five-year period. The need for further initiatives beyond this period should be considered. The Commission proposes a national initiative amounting to an annual total of NOK 130–380 million.

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 educational institutions (Chapter 11).

    Total amount: NOK 40 million.

  • The Commission recommends systematic emphasis on research-based knowledge development regarding the 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 granting public funds for a major public initiative relating to expertise development using MOOCs, which will require collaboration between the authorities and the social partners. The funds can be distributed in various ways, and this 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 and Training to take accelerated education as MOOCs (Chapter 15).

    Total amount: NOK 10 million.

3.1.2 Recommendations to the authorities within the current budget framework

In addition, the Commission recommends a number of national initiatives supporting the main initiatives mentioned above, and which may be funded within the current financial framework:

Brand building

  • The Commission recommends uniting and promoting Norwegian MOOCs 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 digital 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, both domestically and 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 shall, in principle, be free of charge (Chapter 16).

  • The Commission recommends trials with admission to MOOCs with credits 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, can be included in the current degree system. Consequently, the Commission does not see the need for changing the Norwegian regulations for accreditation and recognition of subjects (Chapter 9).

3.1.3 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 the Commission has been able to provide:


  • The Commission believes that there is a need for stronger incentives for increased quality in teaching, as well as for more innovative forms 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. However, the scope of this must 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 the handling of personal information in MOOCs be included in the review regarding digital assessments and exams (Chapter 10).

  • The Commission recommends that the questions relating to copyrights and licensing be considered more closely in order to make it easier to develop open MOOCs (Chapter 12).


  • The Commission recommends a national review of how to improve the institutions’ practice as regards recognising subjects (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 regulations for student fees 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 programmes 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 be included in the reviews of changes to the educational support scheme proposed by the Commission (Chapter 17).

The Commission recommends that the Ministry of Education and Research, in partnership with relevant stakeholders, initiate the different studies mentioned above. The Commission believes that the studies can be executed within the framework of the Ministry of Education and Research or by already appointed commissions.

3.1.4 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 are 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 working life be used as an incentive in the funding system for higher education (Chapter 14).

3.2 Recommendations to universities and university colleges

The Commission believes that digitalisation of higher education is a good instrument for the institutions’ work on quality. In Norway, MOOCs play only a modest part in universities and university colleges’ overall strategies. 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. 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 the 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 assumes 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 educational institutions clarify appropriate agreements for the students’ and employees’ rights to their own intellectual property (Chapter 12).

  • The Commission recommends that the institutions stimulate production of open digital learning resources, and that all learning resources are labelled with conditions for use (Chapter 12).

  • The Commission recommends that the consideration of universal design be safeguarded when selecting the platform (Chapter 11).


  • The Commission believes that the institutions must facilitate a more streamlined practice for recognising subjects across Norwegian institutions (Chapter 9).

  • The Commission is of the opinion that the institutions must develop good schemes for assessing 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 Norwegian institutions that want international cooperation on MOOCs to 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 relating to continuing and further education, and that MOOCs be used as a policy instrument in this work (Chapter 14).



Ørnes et al. (2011) Digital tilstand 2011 – Norgesuniversitetets monitor (Digital status 2011 – Norway Opening Universities' monitor). Norgesuniversitetet skriftserie 1/2011 (Norway Opening Universities' publications 1/2011).

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