Quality Frameworks for MOOCs

  • Darco JansenEmail author
  • Jon Rosewell
  • Karen Kear
Part of the Lecture Notes in Educational Technology book series (LNET)


The hype surrounding MOOCs has been tempered by scepticism about the quality of MOOCs. The possible flaws of MOOCs include the quality of the pedagogies employed, low completion rates and a failure to deliver on the promise of inclusive and equitable quality education for all. On the other hand, MOOCs that have given a boost to open and online education have become a symbol of a larger modernisation agenda for universities, and are perceived as tools for universities to improve the quality of blended and online education—both in degree education and Continuous Professional Development. MOOC provision is also much more open to external scrutiny as part of a stronger globalising higher education market. This has important consequences for quality frameworks and quality processes that go beyond the individual MOOC. In this context, different quality approaches are discussed including possible measures at different levels and the tension between product and process models. Two case studies are described: one at the institutional level (The Open University) and one at a MOOC platform level (FutureLearn) and how they intertwine is discussed. The importance of a national or international quality framework which carries with it a certification or label is illustrated with the OpenupEd Quality label. Both the label itself and its practical use are described in detail. The examples will illustrate that MOOCs require quality assurance processes tailored to e-learning and open education, embedded in institutional frameworks. The increasing unbundling of educational services may require additional quality processes.


Quality of MOOCs Dropout Quality label Open learning e-learning quality 



This research is partly conducted as part of the European Union-funded project SCORE2020—Support Centres for Open education and MOOCS in different Regions of Europe 2020 (Ref. 2014-1-NL01-KA203-001309). We would like to thank all partners in SCORE2020 and OpenupEd for their contributions. However, sole responsibility for this article lies with the authors, and the Commission, SCORE2020 partners and OpenupEd partners are not responsible for any use that may be made of the information contained therein.


  1. Bates, A. W. (2015). Teaching in a digital age. Guidelines for designing teaching and learning for a digital age. Retrieved from
  2. Brouns, F., Teixeira, A., Morgado, L., Fano, S., Fueyo, A. & Jansen, D. (2016). Designing massive open online learning processes: The smooc pedagogical framework. In M. Jemni, Kinshuk & M.K. Khribi (Eds.), Open Education: From OERs to MOOCs. Berlin: Springer.Google Scholar
  3. Butcher, N., & Hoosen, S. (2014). A guide to quality in post-traditional online higher education. Dallas: Academic Partnerships.Google Scholar
  4. Chung, C. (2015). The MOOC platform with a twist: The emergence of UK-based FutureLearn (An Overview of the MOOC Provider Based on an Interview with CEO Simon Nelson,Online). 15 June 2015. Retrieved from (Accessed 20 Nov 2015).
  5. Clark, D. (2016) MOOCs: course completion is wrong measure. Donald Clark Plan B, 27 February 2016. Retrieved from
  6. Conole, G. (2013). Designing for learning in an open world. New York: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Costello, Brown & Holland. (2016). What questions are MOOCs asking? An evidence-based investigation. In M.Khalil, M. Ebner, M. Kopp, A. Lorenz & M. Kalz (Eds.), Proceedings of the European Stakeholder Summit on experiences and best practices in and around MOOCs (pp. 211–221). Retrieved from
  8. CPL. (2015). The changing pedagogical landscape. Retrieved from
  9. Daniel, J. (2012). Making sense of MOOCs: Musings in a maze of myth, paradox and possibility. Journal of Interactive Media in Education, 2012(3). Retrieved from
  10. Dalziel, J., Conole, G., Wills, S., Walker, S., Bennett, S., & Dobozy, E., et al. (2013). The Larnaca declaration on learning design—2013. Retrieved from
  11. Downes, S. (2013). The quality of massive open online courses. Retrieved from
  12. Ehlers, U.D., Ossiannilsson, E., & Creelman, A. (2013). MOOCs and Quality—Where are we—where do we go from here…? MOOC Quality Project, May 6, 2013. Retrieved from
  13. Gaisch, M., & Jadin, T. (2014). Enhanced MOOCs for the conceptual age: A diversified lens on the MOOCversity. In D. Jansen & A. Teixeira (Eds.). Position papers for European cooperation on MOOCs (pp. 120–129). Heerlen: EADTU. Retrieved from
  14. Galley, R. (2015). Learning Design at the Open University: Introducing methods for enhancing curriculum innovation and quality. Retrieved from
  15. Hill, P. (2013). Emerging student patterns in MOOCs: A (Revised) graphical view. Retrieved from
  16. Hollands, F., & Tirthali, D. (2014). Why Do Institutions Offer MOOCs? Online Learning, 18(3). Retrieved from
  17. Jansen, D., Schuwer, R., Teixeira, A., & Aydin, H. (2015). Comparing MOOC adoption strategies in Europe: Results from the HOME project survey. International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, Special Issue on European MOOCs, 16 (6). ISSN 1492-3831. Retrieved from
  18. JISC. (2015). The free learning revolution—Simon Nelson, FutureLearn. Retrieved from
  19. Jordan, K. (2014). Initial trends in enrolment and completion of massive open online courses. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 15(1). Retrieved from
  20. Jordan, K. (2015). Massive open online course completion rates revisited: Assessment, length and attrition. International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 16(3), 341–358.Google Scholar
  21. Kear, K., Williams, K., & Rosewell, J. (2014). Excellence in e-learning: A quality enhancement approach. In: EFQUEL Innovation Forum 2014/International LINQ Conference 2014: Changing the Trajectory—Quality for Opening up Education, 7–9th May 2014, Crete. Retrieved from
  22. Kalz, M., Kreijns, K., Niellissen, G., Castaño-Muñoz, J., Guasch, T., & Espasa, A., et al. (2014). MOOCKnowledge: Establishing a large-scale data collection about participants of European Open Online Courses. In D. Jansen, & A. Teixeira (Eds.), Position papers for European cooperation on MOOCs (pp. 113–119). Heerlen: EADTU. Retrieved from
  23. Kizilcec, R. F., Piech, C., & Schneider, E. (2013). Deconstructing disengagement: Analyzing learner subpopulations in massive open online courses. In Proceedings of the third international conference on learning analytics and knowledge (pp. 170–179). ACM.Google Scholar
  24. Lowenthal, P. R., & Hodges, C. B. (2015). In search of quality: Using Quality Matters to analyze the quality of massive, open, online, courses (MOOCs). The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 15(5). Retrieved from
  25. Macleod, H., Haywood, J., Woodgate, A., & Alkhatnai, M. (2015). Emerging patterns in MOOCs: Learners, course design and directions. TechTrends, 59(1), 56–63. doi: 10.1007/s11528-014-0821-y.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Manturuk, K., & Ruiz-Esparza, Q. M. (2015). On-campus impacts of MOOCs at Duke University. EDUCAUSE Review, August 3, 2015. Retrieved from
  27. Margaryan, A, Bianco, M., & Littlejohn, A. (2015). Instructional quality of massive open online courses (MOOCs). Computers & Education 80, 77–83. Retrieved from
  28. Mulder, F., & Jansen. D. (2015). MOOCs for Opening Up Education and the OpenupEd initiative. In: C. J. Bonk, M. M. Lee, T. C. Reeves, T. H. Reynolds (Eds.). The MOOCs and Open Education Around the World. New York: Routledge Tayler & Francis Group.
  29. Neuböck, K.; Kopp, M., & Ebner, M. (2015). What do we know about typical MOOC participants? First insights from the field. In: EMOOCS2015. Proceedings Papers. European Stakeholder Summit on Experiences and best practices in and around MOOCs (pp. 183–190). 18–20 May 2015. Université Catholique de Louvain, Mons (Belgium).Google Scholar
  30. Nordkvelle, Y., Fossland, T., & Netteland, G. (Eds.). (2013). Kvalitet i höjre utdanning. Norges universitet Oslo: Akademiska Forlag (In Norwegian). Retrieved from
  31. Osuna Acedo, S., Frau-Meigs, D., Camarero Cano, L., Bossu, A., Pedrosa, R. & Jansen, D. (2016). Intercreativity and interculturality in the virtual learning environments of the ECO MOOC project. In M. Jemni, Kinshuk & M.K. Khribi (Eds.), Open Education: From OERs to MOOCs. Berlin: Springer.Google Scholar
  32. Ossiannilsson, E., Williams, K., Camilleri, A. F., & Brown, M. L. (2015). Quality models in online and open education around the globe: State of the art and recommendations. Retrieved from
  33. QAA. (2014). Statement on massive open online courses. Retrieved from
  34. Rodrigo, C., Read, T., Santamaría, M., & Sánchez-Elvira, A. (2014). OpenupEdLabel for MOOC quality assurance: UNED COMA initial self-evaluation. In: Actas del V Congreso Internacional sobre Calidad y Accesibilidad en la Formación Virtual (CAFVIR 2014) (pp. 551–555).Google Scholar
  35. Rosewell, J., & Jansen, D. (2014). The OpenupEd quality label: benchmarks for MOOCs. INNOQUAL: The International Journal for Innovation and Quality in Learning, 2(3), 88–100. Retrieved from
  36. Schuwer, R., Gil-Jaurena, I., Hakan Aydin, C., Costello, E, Dalsgaard, C., & Brown, M., et al. (2015). Opportunities and threats of the MOOC movement for higher education: the European perspective. International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, Special Issue on European MOOCs. 16 (6), 20–38. ISSN 1492-3831. Retrieved from
  37. Selwyn, N. (2014). Digital technology and the contemporary university: Degrees of digitalisation. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  38. Siemens, G. (2012). ‘MOOCs are really a platform’, Elearnspace, July 25, 2012. Retrieved from
  39. Schön, S.; Ebner, M.; Rothe, H.; Steinmann, R. & Wenger, F. (2013). Macht mit im Web! Anreizsysteme zur Unterstützung von Aktivitäten bei Community- und Content-Plattformen. Güntner, G. & Schaffert, S. (eds.). Salzburg: Salzburg Research.Google Scholar
  40. UNESCO (2015a) Goal 4: Ensure inclusive and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning. Retrieved from
  41. UNESCO (2015b). Education 2030: Incheon Declaration and Framework for Action. Retreived from
  42. Weller, M. (2013) MOOCs & Quality. MOOC Quality Project, June 19, 2013. Retrieved from
  43. Williams, K., Kear, K., & Rosewell, J. (2012). Quality Assessment for E-learning: a Benchmarking Approach (2nd ed.). Heerlen, The Netherlands: European Association of Distance Teaching Universities (EADTU). Retrieved from

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.EADTU (European Association of Distance Teaching Universities)XN MaastrichtThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Faculty of Maths, Computing and Technology, Computing and Communications DepartmentThe Open UniversityMilton KeynesUK

Personalised recommendations