David Collien, OpenLearning


Massive open online courses may be the key to disruption readiness

David Collien, OpenLearning

The education sector is due for a disruption, a technological disruption. And startups are heading that change.

We have talked about edutech in our previous article analysing the change that the digital age is bringing into the education sector.

“The years 2004-2011 saw a 70% rise in private investment for EduTech development globally, signalling the beginnings of a sizeable push to develop real, practical tech that can be applied to the classroom in a way that further improves the learning experience of students.

More recently, the fruits of many years of hard work and investment have begun to be seen, as according to StartupMuster, 2017 saw EduTech make up roughly 15% of total investment in Australian startups, up more than 3.5 percent points from the previous year.”

The numbers only solidify the claims there the digital disruption of the education sector is real and on the move. However, when we talk about edutech it is more than just learning variously, it is also about the way we get access to education.

Time for a disruption

There are many ways the digital disruption is going to affect the education sector, the way we learn will be different, the way we source education will be different, and multi-layered learning is achievable as well.

We all know that the world is moving in a direction that, frankly most of us are unsure of, but it is heading there fast. Future of work is a big buzzword that will either give you anxiety or excitement. With that, much higher education might become obsolete with the education that they are offering.

Online learning is not a new concept, but it is becoming quite a force to reckon with in the education sector. Not only does it able to facilitate a different way of learning like peer to peer, but it also allows you to learn it at your own time and pace, but online learning is taking charge of democratising the education system that we are all so used to.

How are they doing it? The education system has dictated how and what we should study, but new vocational institutions have popped up to fill in the gap that is created by advancement in technology.

Vocational institutions like General Assembly and online learning places like Openlearning are made available to catch up with the skills sets that we need. They are democratising the education system. With good reasons of course, such as future of work will require new skills sets and we need to bridge the gap if not we will lose out.

Technology really played a major role in the rise of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) globally, and the ever-evolving technology has validated that this form of education is a new way learning we could.

As mentioned online learning can be a multi-layered learning experience, bringing in peer to peer interaction or even just enhancing the interactions teachers can have with their students. I mean, we have the technology now, why are we not fully utilising they way we learn?

OpenLearning is at the forefront

Edutech startup OpenLearning is doing just that.

OpenLearning is an online social learning platform. The platform is the first of its kind, a fun, empowering and social student experience is at the heart of its design. We give course creators the tools they need to create a learning community, not just an online course.

Led by Founder and CEO, Adam Brimo, and Founder and CTO, David Collien, OpenLearning is focused on student engagement and fostering vibrant learning communities in courses.

OpenLearning uses a social media workflow to enable and encourage commenting and liking, meaning your course will foster a community of collaborative learners instead of individuals feeling lost in a sea of information. They provide built-in galleries, wikis and blog pages to feature work and encourage collaboration and peer feedback, while always maintaining room for individuality.

We caught up with CTO of OpenLearning, David Collien to get his insight on the technological disruption of the education sector.

How is technology playing a part in the education system? 

Emerging online and mobile technologies have disrupted the education landscape by providing students with deeper and more engaging, student-centred learning experiences.

Online technologies have not only made educational content ubiquitous and accessible, but have also let us build tools which connect people digitally, build global online communities, and shape our social behaviours. Learning is now not only on-demand but shifting towards peer-to-peer learning to create technology-facilitated communities of practice. This is only enhanced as AI systems support more personalised learning, AR/VR technologies bring new levels of interactivity to classrooms and online, and social platforms drive knowledge sharing and connection as a contemporary counterpart to face-to-face teaching.

For the higher education sector, online learning has expanded the walls of traditional educational institutions. Courses have showcased an institution’s teaching quality and opened new discussions as to what quality educational experiences can look like. For the learner, these rich digital learning experiences have not only broken down the barriers to accessing quality education (as a result of distance or not being able to attend a physical location) but also produce portfolios of work with recognised micro-credentials to increase a learner’s employability.

Do you feel there is a need to change the way education systems have been for years?

Yes, I do. Reports from both the Foundation for Young Australians (FYA) and EY have revealed that between 60-70% of students at Australian universities are being educated in jobs that won’t exist by the time they graduate. In addition, with the moral panic surrounding AI, automation, and related technologies taking over large areas of the workforce – it’s social (soft) skills, divergent thinking, innovation, and creativity that are increasingly in demand. This is all occurring alongside digital technologies such as social media platforms and digital entertainment becoming an integral part of our collective consciousness.

The quicker these institutions can adapt to the changing digital landscape, the more agile they will become in the face of digital disruption. Some universities across the globe have recognised this and have already started adding digital classes on social platforms to their syllabuses.

Future of Work is something that brings quite a bit of anxiety for the future, how can technology in education help facilitate this change?

Employers are recognising that a good workforce requires diversity. This includes a diversity of learning experiences, ranging from higher education micro-credentials, demonstrable evidence of applied and social skills, to industry qualifications, and practical work experience.

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) like those on OpenLearning are big education disruptors, as MOOCs offer affordable and flexible ways to learn practical skills and advance careers by way of micro-credentials (certification in specific topic areas).

The difficulty met by university graduates is that they are not guaranteed a job after graduating.

With so many university graduates entering the workforce each year, businesses are finding it difficult to objectively assess a candidate’s actual skill level based purely on a degree. Therefore, MOOC graduates can be attractive as companies can benefit from hiring candidates with more targeted micro-credentials and demonstrable portfolios of evidence which showcase practical experience relevant to the skill-set needed in the industry.

Do you feel that the education system needs to widen its services, instead of focusing only on institutions, can we look towards learning in other vocational schools which are there to upskill to meet the requirements of the changing technological scene?

Yes. The education system will need to expand its offering outside of just subject knowledge but include a broader range of characteristics such as emotional intelligence and ethical understanding. This feeds into a greater need for technology education to move from being taught purely as specialisations, towards forming a fundamental digital or technology literacy across many other disciplines. As more fields in the industry become automated or reliant on technology, a foundational understanding of technology will benefit the majority of positions.

In the future of work, the essential factor for an individual and their future potential will be their ability to adapt and expand their knowledge and skills to the changing technological landscape. Not just learning concepts from the content or specialised skill-sets, but learning how to learn, and how to learn from others will be key – supported by formative learning experiences interacting within a community of practice.

Universities will also need to expand their services to integrate industry-informed practical work skills in degrees to upskill the workforce of the 21st Century. Preparing students with practical skills should not just be a part of an institution’s learning strategy but also form part of a business performance strategy, with a focus on lifelong learning.

MOOCs have the ability to provide universities with the opportunity to offer more integrated learning experiences.


And OpenLearning is really taking the forefront of MOOCs. They currently support over 1,200,000 students across 5,000 courses, with thousands more joining every week.

Head on to OpenLearning to see what courses they provide, and maybe your new skill could make your resume more current than it already is.

We are in the midst of Industry 4.0 and here's what you need to know
Massive open online courses may be the key to disruption readiness
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We are in the midst of Industry 4.0 and here's what you need to know