1 University of Coimbra, Faculty of Arts and Humanities (PORTUGAL)
2 University of Minho, Social Sciences Institute (PORTUGAL)
About this paper:
Appears in: INTED2014 Proceedings
Publication year: 2014
Pages: 2494-2500
ISBN: 978-84-616-8412-0
ISSN: 2340-1079
Conference name: 8th International Technology, Education and Development Conference
Dates: 10-12 March, 2014
Location: Valencia, Spain
Science and technology have played a major role in the way education has been shaped, especially since the last decades of the 20th century. Faster and cheaper access to equipment and internet are allowing an increasing number of people to connect, create and share knowledge and information worldwide, putting into question the traditional methods and approaches to teaching and learning grounded on rigidly scheduled classroom classes.
In an academic environment, there is a recent and controversial method, based on the massive and free offering of courses online by renowned universities. MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses), in their current form, have started in the United States of America and received worldwide exposure through initiatives headed by Harvard, MIT and Stanford University. Platforms such as Coursera, EdX, Udacity and several others now present courses prepared by numerous universities from different countries.
This paper aims to study the importance of new means of distance education in the information and knowledge contemporary society, giving emphasis to the approach to MOOCs undertaken by Portuguese universities. There was also an interest in trying to understand their plans for the near future, namely whether to expand or reduce their current offerings.

Bearing in mind the difference between conventional e-learning and MOOCs, an analysis of both private and public universities’ websites has been made in order to assess their present contribution in this field. Some of the data we have tried to gather includes the courses’ duration, field of study, cost and number of students that have attended and/or completed the course, although these numbers are usually undisclosed to the general public and correspondence with these universities is often slow. To complement this information, a brief study of some articles related to the topic has been made, in order to clearly define some terms which had to be used throughout the paper, as well as to understand the present day’s state of the art.

Notwithstanding the national economic crisis in the last few years, Portuguese universities appear to be somewhat distrustful of an approach that may provide people from all over the world, regardless of their socioeconomic status, the chance to learn, develop skills, create and disseminate knowledge, which can coexist with the aforementioned traditional methods. Not every university provides e-learning courses, few of them present a reasonable variety and pricing, and even fewer demonstrate an interest in MOOCs. There seems to be, however, a slow but steadily growing interest, which can indicate that this scenario may be the result of lack of information instead of a serious opposition to the idea.
MOOC, Higher Education, Science and Technology, e-learning, Portugal.