The Irish Online Learning Landscape: A Critical Tour Through the Valley Of the Shadow of the Mooc

Mark Brown
Dublin City University, Ireland

Eamon Costello
Dublin City University, Ireland

Mairead Nic Giolla-Mhichil
Dublin City University, Ireland


This paper adopts a multi-layered metaphorical framework drawing on a combination of critical discourse and policy analysis and a single institutional case study to describe the somewhat messy and fragmented nature of the Irish online learning landscape. At a macro– level it adopts a bird’s eye bifocal perspective to identify some of the grand narratives and competing and co-existing discourses in the current drive to build digital capacity in Irish higher education. Through this analysis the framing of online learning is shown to be part of wider social practice that cannot be separated from deeper debates about the funding of public education and the nature of the good society. At the meso-level a critical tour through the valley of the shadow of the MOOC illustrates that in Ireland new models of online learning have generally failed to engender mainstream support from educators, politicians and policy- makers. Indeed, there is a notable gap in recent policy responses to the challenges and opportunities presented by the MOOC movement. At the micro-level an ecological perspective is adopted in the era of the MOOC towards the complex landscape of innovation and institutional change. A case study is reported of the experience of Dublin City University (DCU) in the strategic selection and carefully phased implementation of the new Academy MOOC platform. Throughout the paper the importance of agency and ability to skilfully border cross and navigate the contested terrain of online learning is emphasised to help shape the future trajectory of higher education.

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