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Beyond MOOCs: The Future of Learning on the Future Internet

John Domingue - Knowledge Media Institute, The Open University, UK
Michael Boniface - IT Innovation, UK
Serge Fdida - University Pierre and Marie Curie, France
Spyros Denazis - University of Patras, Greece

Learning is a key human activity essential for personnel well-being and ensuring a good quality of life. Learning can take many forms from informal learning via online resources, workplace learning to update oneself on latest procedures or protocols to formal certified learning within established educational institutions. Learning is also an important concern when considered simply from a budgetary perspective. For example, in 2009 the EU budget on education was 6.2% of European GDP. Moreover, the education budget is currently being reduced in a number of EU regions, for example in Spain and Greece, which is an additional rationale for innovative solutions enabling the provisioning of cost-effective high quality learning. In this respect MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) represent “…an extension of the move towards online learning provoked by growing numbers of students, reducing learning and teaching budgets…”.

Over the last couple of years, great activity and interest has been associated with MOOCs as they threaten to radically transform higher education in a way the Internet has already transformed other sectors such as the music industry and broadcast TV. Since 2012, major players in higher education have been establishing MOOC companies, for example, from Stanford we have Coursera and Udacity, and from MIT, Harvard and Berkeley we have edX. In 2013 The Open University entered the market with FutureLearn a collaborative venture with around twenty universities and the British Library and British Museum. More recently, these academic institutions have now been joined by the big web players, for example, Google is now creating a ‘YouTube for MOOCs’. These initiatives already are reaching millions of students (e.g. in March 2013 Coursera reported that they had 2.8M students) and have thus far attracted around $100M of investment. MOOCs provide an unprecedented opportunity to provide very high quality learning to all with little to no financial burden irrespective of geography. As the Time Magazine stated earlier this year (with an American bias) MOOCs may open the door to a global “Ivy League for the Masses”. Current enthusiasm for MOOCs however, should be tempered with the fact that there remain open challenges associated with high drop out rates, the lack of a proven sustainable business model and issues associated with guaranteeing a high quality learning experience at scale.

New technologies are also affecting schools – in February this year Prof Sugata Mitra was awarded $1M from the TED organisation to continue his work on ‘Cloud Schools’. This work began with ‘Hole in the Wall’ computers in Indian slums enabling impoverished children to learn by themselves (this idea later inspired the story behind the Oscar-winning film Slumdog Millionaire). Current work is focused around seven sites - five in India and two in the UK – where children from poor backgrounds will use secure Skype connections to speak to a “cloud” of retired professionals from a range of fields who have volunteered to share their expertise.

So what’s next? And what will the relationship be between the next incarnations of Internet-based learning and the Future Internet?

Unpacking the above generates a number of follow on questions that we will discuss in the session.

  • Following from MOOCs what are the future learning paradigms now emerging or currently on the horizon (from a pedagogical, educational and business perspective)?
  • What are the personal, social and economic benefits that these new learning forms will bring to Europe?
  • What requirements do these new learning frameworks impose on the next generation Internet (from a network, services/cloud, media, security, mobile perspective)?
  • How will we meet these requirements? To what extent will our current Future Internet activities meet the requirements? Is there anything we need to initiate?

This session would address the above from a Future Internet perspective. In particular we will investigate the relationship between the future of learning and:

  • GENI – education is one of three strategic pillars for the US Internet experimentation facilities and supports a variety of ongoing learning projects. 
  • Services and Cloud Computing – giving cheap and easy access to large computational resources for learning purposes. 
  • NRENs – providing specialised high performance networking to support education on a national basis.

Based upon the projects that they lead the session organisers will cover the future of learning from Media (EXPERIMEDIA), Data and eBooks (EUCLID) and FIRE facilities (FORGE, OPENLAB and STEER) perspectives. We will also give a view of the future of learning from the viewpoint of the EIT ICT Labs KIC.

MOOCs have shown that Internet and Media technologies offer the possibility to radically change the education landscape and the start of Horizon 2020 provides a prime opportunity to start to explore the relationship between the future of learning and future internet technologies.



The organisers will give a brief overview of the rationale and aims for the session.

John Domingue Knowledge Media Institute, The Open University, UK Projects: FORGE

Rebecca will be talking about her experience with the UK-based FutureLearn platform for massive open online courses (MOOCs). FutureLearn ran its first course in September last year and now has more than a quarter of a million registered users. Rebecca will talk about the benefits that massive participation can offer to learners, educators and to society. She will also talk about the implications of MOOCs for the future of the internet.

Rebecca Ferguson Pedagogic Adviser, FutureLearn, UK

School in the Cloud is a new and exciting way of learning. It has no classrooms but it has rooms, just like a cyber-café but only for kids. In School in the Cloud we believe that learning happens at edge of chaos. That is, if provided with amazing questions, encouragement and computers, children are able to teach each other anything they want. This presentation focuses on the vision of School in the Cloud and the future of learning.

Natalia Arredondo Newcastle University, UK Projects: The School in the Cloud

Learning is no longer an activity you do for a limited time in a specific place and setting: it’s about your entire life’s journey. It’s the key to our success as individuals and to future prosperity for our societies. That is why ATOS and specially its Research and Innovation division (ARI) has a long tradition on joining efforts with Universities, research institutions and other enterprises to provide innovative solutions to Education.

This talk will focus on ATOS views related to the future of workplace learning having as starting point the analysis of the challenges arising in the deployment of MOOCs. It will present how new approaches combining of  some specific learning practices like seamless learning and micro-learning can ensure  future deployments of workplace learning as a continuous social learning in knowledge networks.

Carmen L. Padrón-Nápoles Senior Consultant, Atos Research and Innovation, Spain

Cisco Systems developed as part of their academy programme a simulator for teaching networking in 2007/8. This discussion describes how this is used within the Open University as well as how the development of the multiuser tool may shape the future of teaching networking.

Andrew Smith Lecturer in Networking, The Open University Projects: FORGE

Epignosis’ tools support community and personalized learning based on the principle of collective knowledge.

Dimitris Tsigos CEO and co-Founder of Epignosis, Greece and President of the European Confederation of Young Entrepreneurs

Using her experiences accumulated from GRNET, Afrodite will outline how National Research and Education Networks (NRENs) support national education communities.

Dr. Afrodite Sevasti Chief Business Development Officer at GRNET & Senior Project Manager in GÉANT

The US NSF GENI Project has had its infrastructure developed and deployed on top of production class computing and networking infrastructure.  Not only is this infrastructure tightly integrated into the campus infrastructure, but a subset of the developed technologies are entering production campus infrastructure via NSF efforts.  This not only enables students to learn about the computing, networking, and software technologies, but its also enables a wider scope of students to experience future Internet via applications.  We will discuss the approach we take to expand GENI for a wider range of applications, with a recent video streaming project example.

Kuang-Ching Wang Associate Professor, Clemson University, US
Panel Discussion

In this section the speakers and organisers will form a panel to answer questions from the audience. We will focus around the questions listed above and place an emphasis on making this interactive.


The organisers summarise the session and outline follow-up actions.

John Domingue Knowledge Media Institute, The Open University, UK Projects: FORGE
Thursday, 20 Mar
Session (parallel)


Knowledge Media Institute, The Open University, UK
Pedagogic Adviser, FutureLearn, UK
Newcastle University, UK
Senior Consultant, Atos Research and Innovation, Spain
CEO and co-Founder of Epignosis, Greece and President of the European Confederation of Young Entrepreneurs
Chief Business Development Officer at GRNET & Senior Project Manager in GÉANT
Associate Professor, Clemson University, US
Lecturer in Networking, The Open University