About this paper

Appears in:
Pages: 876-879
Publication year: 2017
ISBN: 978-84-617-8491-2
ISSN: 2340-1079
doi: 10.21125/inted.2017.0359

Conference name: 11th International Technology, Education and Development Conference
Dates: 6-8 March, 2017
Location: Valencia, Spain


I. Croft

Instituto de Empresa (SPAIN)
A leading online platform suggests that in five years, all institutions will offer certified degrees in the form of MOOCs or SPOCs. This provider, Coursera, has acquired over 15 million students and 130 partners in four years, whilst little brother EdX has racked up 5 million users and 70 institutions. To put those numbers into perspective, combined, that’s 50 times more students than have ever been to Harvard.

So what’s the problem?The problem is that the horse has bolted. MOOCs and SPOCs aren’t news to anyone. Technologically aware universities have produced them for years, and there will be a wave of new entrants in the coming months. In November 2016, Oxford University announced that it would be launching its first MOOC. The competition is growing. Every university will soon be trying to grab a slice of this very large pie. So how do we stay ahead of the curve, and compete with Ivy League institutions and Old Masters whom have years of prestige and history on their side?.

To answer that, I need to digress to the world British Cycling. Dave Brailsford was brought in as an advisor in 1997 after the unsuccessful 1996 Olympics, where GB only won 2 medals. His arrival saw an improvement four years later, which prompted British Cycling to make him Performance Director, and with it his philosophy of ‘Marginal Gains’. He recognised that his small island couldn’t rival the likes of the US in terms of numbers, nor Germany or France in terms of tradition or cycling culture – so where could they compete? In every other way: bike mechanics, riders’ clothing, diet, sleep schedules, to name a few. If they could improve all these little things by a fraction, maybe they would amount something bigger. The results were spectacular. In 2004, the UK came third in the medal table. In 2008 and 2012? First. Whilst you can’t improve one thing by 100%, you can improve 100 by 1%.

100 things to improve in MOOCs?Everywhere you look; from the speed of your reply in the forum, to the accuracy of the videos’ subtitles. However, for my presentation, I want to focus on one – using technology and alternative videos to enhance quality. I will show participants how they can use marginal gains to increase the quality of MOOCs and SPOCs to compete with leading institutions.

One way to differentiate, is by using a LED Board. Used in dark room, the professor stands behind a transparent LED lit screen and writes in a white pen - a modern way of displaying tables, matrices or diagrams. Another, is by altering the location of the video. Imagine you are doing a course on Pricing Strategy – what better way to explain the differences between premium and budget pricing than by recording at a bustling and iconic market in your city.

Is a Professor from Spain or India ever going to sound as natural and fluent in English as one from California? Probably not. Can they produce a more engaging video through the use of technology or location despite that? Yes.

At IE we’ve embraced this philosophy in order to maintain our excellent reputation in blended and face-to-face education. Over three years, we have launched 20 MOOCs, sustaining impressive ratings; the highest ranked courses achieving 4.8/5. A total reach of 200,000 students.
The online world of education, whilst not tearing up university leader boards completely, has certainly put all institutions on a more level playing field. By using marginal gains, all players have the chance to climb that medal table and end up as number 1.
author = {Croft, I.},
series = {11th International Technology, Education and Development Conference},
booktitle = {INTED2017 Proceedings},
isbn = {978-84-617-8491-2},
issn = {2340-1079},
doi = {10.21125/inted.2017.0359},
url = {https://dx.doi.org/10.21125/inted.2017.0359},
publisher = {IATED},
location = {Valencia, Spain},
month = {6-8 March, 2017},
year = {2017},
pages = {876-879}}
AU - I. Croft
SN - 978-84-617-8491-2/2340-1079
DO - 10.21125/inted.2017.0359
PY - 2017
Y1 - 6-8 March, 2017
CI - Valencia, Spain
JO - 11th International Technology, Education and Development Conference
JA - INTED2017 Proceedings
SP - 876
EP - 879
ER -
I. Croft (2017) USING MARGINAL GAINS TO IMPROVE MOOCS AND SPOCS, INTED2017 Proceedings, pp. 876-879.