Putting the ‘X’ in Oxford

When I read about EdX, MITx, BerkeleyX, HarvardX  etc I wonder if they envy the fact that we already have the X in our name*.

Oxford has a fine tradition of extension teaching (for that is what the X stands).

Oxford University signalled an educational responsibility to the general community by sending lecturers into towns and cities across Victorian England, bringing university culture to a diverse adult audience. The first of the lectures was delivered in 1878, and by 1893 Oxford University Extension Centres were bringing adult education to much of England, plus a few cities in Wales.

You can read a book about it.  T.S. Elliot was one of the tutors.

We  still have one of the largest (second only to Harvard)  departments of continuing education,  one of the largest collections of free online lectures and a raft of successful online courses.

“In the late-19th century Oxford was one of the pioneers of the university extension movement, which enabled audiences around the UK to hear what some of its lecturers had to say on a wide range of topics. The OpenSpires project is the 21st-century equivalent, though, with the benefit of the web, the audiences are now global and we hope even more diverse. It is a pleasure to contribute to this important venture, which is opening up Oxford like never before.”
Peter D. McDonald, St Hugh’s College, Oxford
Peter on iTunesU

It is not surprising then that our current Pro-Vice Chancellor for Education would be invited on to BBC Newsnight to speak on the topic of MOOCs.

If you missed it, it is available on iplayer and on BBC News pages. There are mentions of lemmings, bandwagons and dodos. I think the journalist’s use of  ‘Oxford is loathe to’ is contradicted a paragraph later by ‘that does not mean Oxford will never offer Moocs at some point’.

What worries me most about that BBC article are the phrases:  ‘ similar to university courses, but do not tend to offer academic credit’   so, not so similar then,  and ‘students can get a precise fix on their progress, as can their teachers, if they have one.’  If they have one.

People are interested in what Oxford will do, and of course we will think seriously about it. We will consult widely. How are MOOCs seen ‘Through Oxford Glasses’? What is ‘The Cambridge Point of View’? Has ‘Conservatism’ decayed? Do we care for ‘English Coins’ ? We will review our books.

Seriously though, if you are interested on what is being talked about at Oxford, here is the current position  from Education Committee:

” Education Committee noted the rising interest and increasing activity in developing MOOCs. It recognised that the University needed to reach a view on whether and if so how to engage with MOOCs, that this was a strategic matter for Council, and that any consideration of MOOCs needed to be situated within the wider discussion of the University’s Digital Strategy. A Working Group was set up in Hilary Term 2013 to explore the case for, and interest in, MOOCs at Oxford. The remit of the group was to consider whether MOOCs could support the University’s strategic objectives with regard to widening participation and enhancing the student learning experience, as well as taking a measure of interest from academic staff.  In Trinity Term 2013, Education Committee agreed that the wider University should be consulted in order to gauge the level of interest in MOOCs and the range of courses that might potentially be offered.”

Watch this space, with Xitement.

* as well as an O!

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