Co-operative Education Trust Scotland (CETS)
The Co-operative Education Trust Scotland (CETS) seeks to embed cooperative enterprise education into the curriculum at all levels (primary, secondary and tertiary). However, as a very small organisation, limited resources hamper its efforts to disseminate the educational material it produces to a wider audience.
On hearing a presentation at an an Opening Educational Practices in Scotland (OEPS) forum by the University of Edinburgh on the potential of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) to reach tens of thousands of people, the Director of CETS Hugh Donnelly, therefore sat up and took notice.
Hugh was already aware of the concept of 'open' which aligned with the cooperative values of making education freely available for all. In addition, CETS had previously worked in partnership with the University of Aberdeen to produce an open undergraduate module on cooperatives with the express purpose of encouraging lecturers, wherever they were located, to use and/or copy and adapt the material for their own teaching purposes. Although the module had been used by a lecturer as far away as South Korea, a limited budget prevented CETS from marketing this and other material to a wider audience.
This led Hugh Donnelly to approach staff from the University of Edinburgh at the OEPS forum to discuss the possibility of developing a MOOC on cooperatives. Hugh believed there was an additional reason the University of Edinburgh should have been interested in disseminating knowledge about co-operatives and employee ownership: its own students had established a number of co-operatives including a recycling project and bringing a halls of residence into co-operative ownership.
Hugh drew up a list of academics with an interest in cooperatives and employee ownership and brought them together with staff from the University of Edinburgh's open education team to discuss the idea of developing a MOOC. Once Donald George from School of Economics agreed to take responsibility for driving the project forward within the University of Edinburgh, Hugh Donnelly took a step back and let those with expertise on designing learning materials run with the idea.
The University of Edinburgh subsequently launched a six week MOOC, Economic Democracy, The Cooperative Alternative, in partnership with the University of St Andrews and the James Hutton Institute in November 2016. The MOOC, hosted on the edX platform, will run for three years and is self-paced which means students can enrol at any time. The course uses automated quizzes and community forums, monitored by the academic team and their teaching assistants and most of the MOOC's content is openly licensed. Participants can choose to take the online assessments and pay ($49) for a certificate of completion. To date approximately 4,500 people from 153 countries have registered for the course.
The successful launch of the MOOC was a significant outcome for CETS and their aim of promoting cooperatives. CETS Director, Hugh Donnelly said, 'Although I wasn't involved with the writing, if I hadn't gone to the OEPS forum then I wouldn't have met the staff from the University of Edinburgh and the MOOC wouldn't have happened.'
CETS would like to be in a position to develop more open, online courses 'in-house' but do not currently have the necessary resources. However, they recognise that OpenCreate, the software being developed by The Open University that will be freely available, will make it easier for them to create their own courses or edit existing material and courses open courses if they choose to go down that path.