Online Courses (MOOCs) Will Change Learning

Special presentation - Japan's MOOCs is Pioneering Developments in Learning through Collaboration between Business and Academia—MOOCs Bring New Possibilities to Businesses and Society

Fujitsu's largest event, Fujitsu Forum Tokyo was held May 15-16 , 2014, at the Tokyo International Forum in the Yurakucho District. In a special presentation during the forum, expert panelists from the field of online education discussed Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs).

Japanese universities now offering online courses that facilitate improved participant engagement

The MOOC initiative was started in 2012 mainly by US universities, which allow anyone online to enroll in free large scale courses. Today, many universities around the world, including Stanford and Harvard, offer MOOC courses. Unlike other online courses in which students merely watch videotaped lectures, some MOOC courses allow participants to have discussions with each other and submit assignments to earn the certificate or qualification. At this special presentation, panelists with years of experience in online education engaged in active discussions about the present state of MOOCs in Japan and the challenges they face.

Professor of Meiji University Dr. Yoshimi Fukuhara, also Secretary-General of JMOOC, which was established in October 2013, noted that few people in Japan re-enroll school after graduating from high school or university. He emphasized the importance of creating a system to encourage continued learning that takes into consideration the characteristics of different cultural zones, rather than simply jumping on the MOOC platform of the US and Europe.

Dr. Naoko Tosa, Professor of Kyoto University, explained that Kyoto University had participated in a leading MOOC platform, edX, and presented the first lecture on the "Chemistry of Life" (by Professor Motonari Uesugi). According to Dr. Tosa, their initiative featured interdisciplinary content, and she said that by introducing a system that allowed participants to evaluate each other's ideas, they aimed to offer lectures to "allow students to come up with new ideas in addition to accumulating knowledge."

Participants advanced their careers with MOOCs

Dr. Katsusuke Shigeta, Associate Professor of Hokkaido University, introduced a Small Private Online Course (SPOC: a private online course within a university or company) promoted by Hokkaido University's Open Education Center. National universities in Hokkaido are cooperating in the area of liberal arts education and preparing for coproduction of open educational materials and interactive remote education, which are scheduled to start in 2015. "By combining SPOCs and MOOCs, we will further diversify education and improve quality, while at the same time promote the university to the world," he said.

Mr. Ryuichi Kanari, an Asahi Shimbun journalist who has interviewed more than 40 MOOC users in Japan and abroad, introduced many examples of MOOC participants who had not had the opportunity to attend higher education who were able to advance their careers thanks to MOOCs. There were expressions of astonishment from the audience when he introduced the story of a 16-year-old Mongolian high school student who, after completing a MOOC with outstanding results, was accepted to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
"The time has come to redefine learning." (Mr. Kanari, Asahi Shimbun)

Moreover, according to Fujitsu's Chiaki Ito, a JMOOC director, leading computer scientists in the U.S. are rushing into the field of education and investment funds are showing a keen interest in MOOCs. On the other hand, he also said that a high percentage of participants do not complete the MOOCs they enroll in.

Despite the many challenges identified by panelists-"What kinds of courses does today's society require?" "What should be done to enable everyone to access MOOCs?" and "What should be done to connect MOOCs with businesses?"- the new educational possibilities in this 90-minute discussion excited the audience.

  • Yoshimi FukuharaSpecially Appointed Professor, Meiji University; Secretary-General of the Japan Open Online Education Promotion Council (JMOOC)

  • Katsusuke ShigetaAssociate Professor, Media Education Research Division, Information Initiative Center, Hokkaido University

  • Ryuichi KanariJournalist, International News Division, Asahi Shimbun

  • Naoko TosaProfessor, Institute for Information Management and Communication, Kyoto University

  • Chiaki ItoExecutive Adviser, Fujitsu Limited