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Trends and Opportunities in Online Learning, MOOCs, and Cloud-Based Tools



Online learning, in particular massive open online courses (MOOCs) and cloud-based tools, is on the move. This chapter takes a deeper look at opportunities and possibilities that might be provided to K-12 education through these emerging tools. The chapter summarizes experiences, case studies, and examples that illustrate where technology-enhanced learning is heading.
Preliminary version originally published in: Chang V., Gütl C., Ebner M. (2018) Trends and Op-
portunities in Online Learning, MOOCs, and Cloud-Based Tools. In: Voogt J., Knezek G., Christensen
R., Lai KW. (eds) Second Handbook of Information Technology in Primary and Secondary Education.
Springer International Handbooks of Education. Springer, Cham
Trends and Opportunities in Online
Learning, MOOCs and Cloud-based Tools
Vanessa Chang
Curtin Learning and Teaching, Curtin University, Bentley, Western Australia, Australia
Christian Gütl
Institute for Interactive Systems and Data Science, Graz University of Technology, Graz.
Martin Ebner
Educational Technology & Institute for Interactive Systems and Data Science, Graz
University of Technology, Graz. Austria
Introducti on
Cloud-based technology is everywhere and it is increasingly intertwined in learn-
ing and teaching. At the start of the new millennium, Prensky (2001) pointed to
radical changes in the way students will learn and how teachers will teach in the
21st century. These changes are being driven by rapid increases in access, new en-
abling uses of technology, the daily use of technology by ‘digital natives’ influ-
encing attitudes toward active co-creation rather than passive participation, and
the impacts these factors are having on the design of learning spaces driving a ris-
ing expectation of higher levels of immersion and engagement. For example, pub-
lic schools in the United States provide at least one computer for every five stu-
dents (Herold, 2017) and in Australia, that ratio is one computer for every 3
students (Fogarty, 2015). With access increasing exponentially, all educators - K-
12 teachers, college professors and administrators - must be well-equipped to fol-
low the growth. Today’s students are technology-driven (Nagler et al. 2014,
2016; Oblinger & Oblinger, 2005) with many growing up with daily use of mobile
devices, smart phones, laptops, tablets, and fast internet access. Some evidence
shows that some learners are more inquisitive while aspiring to learn in a formal,
collaborative and social setting (Conole et al., 2006; Margaryan et al, 2011; Bullen
et al, 2001), while there are still some who are more complacent and rely heavily
on teachers to guide their learning (Weimer, 2014). K-12 teachers and administra-
tors are grappling with how to embrace new teaching and digital strategies taking
into account aspects to motivate and facilitate learning in both formal and informal
settings. It is becoming clear that teaching and learning in the 21st century is vastly
different to teaching and learning in previous centuries. In this context, the experts
polled in the NMC Horizon Report 2016 K-12 agreed on the long-term trend of
red esigning l earni ng s pace s to accom mo date m ore im mers iv e, h ands -on activi-
ties which indicates that online learning and virtual reality are important emerg-
ing educational technologies (Adams Becker, et al., 2016).
As educational technology continues to permeate society, teachers and admin-
istrators must become aware of and learn to take advantage of enabling learning
technologies and tools in order to influence the learning environment ecosystem
and drive student engagement and motivation to learn. In addition, the global
transformation has demanded that teachers learn new teaching skills and adminis-
trators adopt new operating models in response to the technological changes.
As important developments in educational technologies continue to emerge, K-
12 teachers and administrators need to embrace the use of enabling technologies in
‘the world of connected instruction’ (Smith, 2014) to improve learning and teach-
ing in schools. New teaching models utilizing technology enhanced learning en-
courage students to be active learners allowing them to be both consumer and co-
creator of contents. The future trends and opportunities in learning for K-12 point
to new potential in the field of MOOCs and online learning. Although some work
has been published on MOOCs and K-12 (e.g. Canessa & Pisani, 2013; Ferdig,
2013; Ebner et al, 2016), many K-12 teachers and administrators may not have yet
encountered the practical and pedagogical benefits of MOOCs in the K-12 domain
(Ferdig and Pytash, 2013). Adams Becker et al. (2016) identified difficult chal-
lenges in adopting educational technologies and teaching innovations into main-
stream practice due to financial and organizational issues.
The aim of this chapter is to raise awareness about the emerging potential
within primary and secondary education for the use of cloud-based tools in
MOOCs and online learning. The chapter begins by discussing the evolution of
traditional classroom to online learning, followed by background on MOOCs and
related research including those that are directed at K-12 teachers and students.
More specifically, this chapter will focus on learning at scale with the MOOCs
experience and the use of cloud-based tools (CBT) to create content for learning
purposes. The aim of introducing CBT is to provide teachers with increased flexi-
bility to select their preferred learning tools and media to meet their own class-
room needs and objectives.
Evolution of Online Learning
Learning and teaching technologies have evolved from chalkboards, corre-
spondence or on-air classes, overhead projectors, photocopiers, calculators, films
and videos, to portable computers, microcomputers, whiteboards, personal digital
assistants, learning management systems (LMS), the internet, iPads, tablets, social
media, wikis, blogs and the list of innovations has continued into the 21st centu-
ry. In particular, the introduction of LMS and the arrival of the World Wide Web
in the 1990s changed the dissemination of learning experiences. Coupled with the
use of Web-based applications, collaborative and constructivist learning were
augmented with the first use of bulletin boards (Maurer and Scerbakov, 1996).
The advent of Web 2.0 technologies introduced e-Learning 2.0 (Downes, 2005)
and this saw the rise of collaborative online learning, followed by the integration
of mobile technologies (Ally et al, 2014) and cloud computing. With mobile
computing devices and networked technologies and the mass consumerization of
smart devices, some schools have implemented Bring Your Own Devices
(BYOD) initiatives, and others have implemented one-to-one (1:1) computing
programs. Today, online learning such as Massive Open Online Courses
(MOOCs) includes teaching and learning for mass audiences (e.g. several MOOCs
have more than 25,000 students learning together). Currently, there are research
studies that are investigating the use of wearable technologies and sensors (Wong
et al., 2015) and virtual reality technologies for learning and teaching (Spitzer &
Ebner, 2016). One of the newest emerging trends is the availability of a mak-
erspace where creative thinking skills are exercised in a collaborative work space
infused with computational imaging and other new capabilities (Schön et al, 2014;
Adams Becker, et al., 2016). Some of the new skills needed in the makerspace in-
clude how to use 3D printing, laser cutting, 3D modeling, and robotics. More re-
cently, cognitive computing (e.g. IBM Watson) has introduced the concept that
technology can understand, personalize, interact and emulate or think like a hu-
man (IBM, 2017and may be used to support online learning.
The evolution of online learning can be seen as following a five-stage maturity
process (Ebner et al. 2013). Stage one includes traditional teaching in lecture halls
or classroom without the use of any technology. Stage two is today’s most com-
mon way of teaching that is supported with technology; for example with the use
of overhead projectors or simple online services. Stage three includes the assis-
tance of a LMS or similar online-based information systems, where teachers pro-
vide learning contents and learning tools such as discussion forums. Stage four
adds blended learning approaches (e.g. using both face-to-face and online learning
interactions) where some teaching shifts to the online setting as an activity to be
engaged by the student prior to or after the classroom. Stage five is a mature stage
where all teaching and learning takes place entirely through interactive student
engagement in the online setting. In this stage, access to learning can be open ac-
cess and unrestricted.
The concept of online learning at stage five prospers with the advancement of
Internet capabilities. Subject content for online learning can be developed and
presented using videos, audios and graphic elements. To encourage student en-
gagement in online setting, courses can be taken synchronously in real time using
webcams or chat rooms and asynchronously through discussion boards and peer-
to-peer learning.
As the learning reaches Stages four and five, teachers may incorporate the use
of mobile technologies to increase student motivation and engagement in the
classroom. Incorporating Bring Your Own Devices (BYOD) into the learning ac-
tivities can help teachers transform and enrich their teaching methods into project
or enquiry-based activities (Sharples, et al. 2014). Teachers may create online ac-
tivities such as voting and polls or ask questions via clickers on their smart devic-
es. Students like to use and have control over their smart and personal devices and
they may be engaged to do a learning task and complete the classroom task.
In recent years as a technology enhancement for stage 3 and higher, MOOCs
have paved the way for personalizing learning at scale. MOOCs are primarily free,
interactive online courses available to anyone who has Internet access and wants
to take the course. MOOCs have already made their mark in higher education at a
global scale, with many top universities offering MOOCs on well-known plat-
forms such as edX, Coursera, FutureLearn, Udacity, and others. More recently,
cloud-based services are incorporated into MOOCs as these services have a selec-
tion of engaging activities such as simulations and graphic programming environ-
ments (MOOCMAKER, 2016).
MOOCs are also making their way into K-12 education and there are immedi-
ate benefits of doing this. With use of interactive digital tools and other services,
MOOCs may be used as an effective strategy to disseminate knowledge and basic
literacy to masses of people, conduct outreach to primary education students, sup-
plement existing content to make it more interesting, engaging, and informative,
and engage students in diverse peer-based learning outside the walls and other bar-
riers of the classroom and community. Moreover, MOOCs can foster self-
regulated learning skills (Neuböck et al, 2015). With these potential use-cases in
mind, K-12 teachers and school administrators must be well-prepared to under-
stand and utilize the Internet, cloud services, social media, and visualization tech-
nologies. To be able to create effective and engaging courses at scale, teachers
must explore and engage in the use of various learning technologies and tools to
address varying learning challenges to gain maximum educational outcomes.
Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs)
Over the last two decades, technological inventions and changing attitudes of so-
ciety have resulted in new forms of open education and massification of learning
and teaching. Open source and cloud-based tools as well as open education re-
sources have provided freely available courses to anyone without restrictions. Alt-
hough open education resources such as the MIT OpenCourseware program can
be tracked back to 2002 (see, George Siemens and Stephen
Downes raised the awareness in 2008 by offering an online course called ‘Connec-
tivism and Connective Knowledge’ which was open to the public and attracted
more than 2000 participants. The new concept of involving a large number of
learners without any restrictions became known as Massive Open Online Courses
or MOOCs. Since then, MOOCs have become increasingly popular. MOOCs re-
search has grown and top educational institutions now offer hundreds of MOOCs
to millions of people. In 2011, Stanford University offered the MOOC Introduc-
tion to Artificial Intelligence’ and reported some 160,000 enrolled users. For 2016,
some 6800 courses from more than 700 universities and some 58 million users
have been reported (Class Central, 2016, MOOCMAKER, 2016b) which shows
how open education has scaled up since the first introduction of MOOCs.
Types of MOOCs
The first MOOC offered by Siemens and Downes (n.d.) followed the connectivist
theory known as cMOOC. The role of a cMOOC is used to refer to a MOOC that
is designed to connect learners, to share and learn from one another. Another type
of MOOC is called xMOOC which are normally offered by university-based plat-
forms and are modeled on traditional ‘stand, deliver and test’ higher education
teaching methods. Rosselle, Caron and Heutte (2014) classified three types of
MOOCs based on five dimensions: (1) learning goals, 2) choice of resources, (3)
organization of learning activities, (4) organization of individual and group work,
and (5) collaborative co-production.
cMOOC. This type of MOOC is designed based on the connectivist approach
and provides learners with the flexibility and openness for all the above dimen-
xMOOC. This type of MOOC is based on the idea of using a centralized
learning management system and the courses are designed by a set of defined
activities incorporating some or all five dimensions listed above.
iMOOC. These types of MOOCs follows an investigative approach in the in-
structional design. iMOOCs are restricted in terms of learning goals and the or-
ganization of the learning activities. However, such MOOCs gives learners
freedom to select learning resources and organize group work for collaborative
In the last few years, another type of online learning builds on the same open in-
frastructure and technologies but in a learning environment that restricts the access
to students, and this is called a Small Private Online Learning or SPOC (Fox,
2013). Examples of where SPOCs are used is for in-house training or for individ-
ual local school setting rather than at scale.
Characteristics of MOOCs
MOOC are most often associated with open access courses accessible to anyone,
anywhere in the world. Learners have the opportunities to advance their
knowledge and skills through formal learning as well as in life-long learning set-
tings. This setting allows learners from around the world with diverse social and
cultural background to collaborate, interact, communicate, and work with one an-
other. The MOOC environment also provides opportunities to those who cannot
access traditional and formal learning due to financial constraints, geographical
barriers, time, and other factors.
A successful MOOC course is typically highly engaging with lots of activities
with contents that are presented in videos and rich media sources such as the use
of graphics, images, games, infographics, slides deck and course handouts. Quiz-
zes and assignments are generally used to test the learners’ mastery of the course.
In order to motivate and engage with learners, gamification and simulation ap-
proaches may be considered as innovative features. MOOCs can be designed as
self-paced, instructor-led or a mixture of both methods. Where possible, a self-
paced course is attractive in that it allows learners the freedom to work through ac-
tivities at their own pace. Related to this, MOOC courses with succinct activities
and shorter duration can also help to keep the learners motivated and committed to
complete the course. With instructor-led courses, resources must be carefully
planned and sufficient facilitators or tutors need to be assigned to participate in
discussion forums and respond to learners’ questions. Learning activities should
also be designed in a way that encourages learning in groups. A good mix of self-
assessment, peer-assessment and automated assessment that provides useful feed-
back can guide the learners throughout the learning activities. The MOOC must
also be designed in such a way that will allow learners to track their progress and
there is also the ability to take notes in the MOOC itself.
Since most MOOCs allow for global reach and are scalable, learners can come
from all over the globe with different levels of education, varying technical and
computer literacy and diverse metacognitive skills. Depending on the way the
MOOCs are designed, there can be a mismatch of the level of difficulty of the
course and expectations of the learners. This generally leads to issues of high
drop-out rates. Detailed insights of learners’ behavior and intentions when they are
enrolled and of those who are committed to finish the course must be considered.
Most MOOC learners reached thus far have tended to be life-long learners whose
primary motivation is to learn about topics that interest them. Thus, many may
only complete the learning content without completing any assessments. While
educators in a traditional setting treat high attrition rates as a failure, this may not
be true for MOOCs completion (Gütl, et al., 2014a). Research on attrition in
MOOCs by Gütl, Chang, Hernández Rizzardini and Morales (2014b) reveals that
learners who generally enrolled in MOOCs fall into 3 main categories. There are
those who may only access the learning content without completing all the activi-
ties. There are other learners categorized as ‘completers’ and finally, there are oth-
ers characterized as ‘persistence’ learners who intend to complete all five dimen-
sions as listed previously. Depending on the learners’ goals, course completion is
not necessarily a measure of success. Figure 1 depicts a holistic model for learner
attrition and retention in a MOOC (Gütl et al., 2014b).
Figure 1. MOOC Learners Attrition and Persistence Model
MOOCs - Applications in K - 12 Practice
MOOCs can be used for different purposes in K-12 education. For example,
teachers may use part of their learning activities to supplement their teaching.
Students themselves can also enroll in MOOCs independently. In some schools,
educators have used MOOCs to discover career opportunities (Ferdig and Pytash,
2013). Teachers have also enrolled in MOOCs for their own professional devel-
opment. One example that has been developed to help teachers continue profes-
sional education is the ‘Analytics for the Classroom Teacher’ (see offered
by Curtin University on the edX platform.
There are ample opportunities for both teachers and students with K-12 learn-
ing with MOOCs. As learning is primarily self-regulated learning, teachers may
need to guide students in how to use a MOOC (Neuböck et al, 2015). School chil-
dren tend to ‘learn by doing’ and with a greater focus on Science, Technology,
Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education, there are a number of examples
that show motivated students watching videos and taking self-scoring quizzes to
learn about physics or mathematics. Some students also follow videos to learn
how to program small applications, a common practice among young people using
YouTube videos to learn almost anything at anytime. Some MOOCs are built
with gamification features that further motivate students to complete learning or
practice tasks. Some interesting development and successful applications are
listed below:
As part of the STEM education, STEM-MOOCs exist for students with the
age range of 13-15. The conceptual and practical experiments of STEM
are conducted via videos. Early research with the tracking of students’ per-
formance showed students can benefit by having guided online learning
(Khalil & Ebner, 2015). Teachers can certainly supplement part or all of
the STEM education into the classroom.
To increase interest in programming especially for young learners age 10
and above, there are MOOCs that will teach both teachers and students to
code. For example, a MOOC on Pocket Code was implemented offering
step-by-step How-To Program’ videos to program a first mobile applica-
tion. The core concept of the MOOC follows the principle of open learning
outside the classroom to attract students to learn basic computer science
In partnership with Google Australia, the Computer Science Education Re-
search Group at the University of Adelaide developed a series of K-10
MOOCs on Digital Technologies for STEM curriculum (see These resources are freely avail-
able for teacher’s education and professional learning (Falker, et al, 2015).
In 2014 another MOOC for school children has also been offered, called
the the circle. Over 40 videos were produced embedded in a special di-
dactical approach. Keeping in mind the seamless learning approach, stu-
dents get a master plan of how the videos can be used to learn the topics.
This MOOC uses elements of gamification, and at the conclusion of each
topic, students can collect stars to signal their completion and achievement
(Fößl et al, 2016).
In 2016, Microsoft created a series of MOOCs to guide K-12 school and
education leaders to develop teachers, enhance classroom teaching and im-
prove student engagement and learning outcomes. The aim of the MOOCs
is to improve leadership in K-12 education and to drive transformational
changes in the innovative digital schools.
There exists a number of MOOCs on calculus, biology, statistics and com-
puter science and teachers can certainly integrate the course materials as a
flipped classroom’ concept and to augment their curriculum.
Finally, teachers may learn new skills about upcoming MOOC topics will
benefit from this form of professional development. For example there are
MOOCs about incorporating 3D printing, vinyl-cutting, and programming
robots that teachers can use in the classroom (Ebner et al, 2016).
Cloud-based To ols and Services
Overv iew
At the beginning of the new millennium, the Web, which was originally designed
mainly for the consumption of information, has transformed into a participatory
Web. Information consumers have become more actively involved in creating and
remixing and re-purposing existing contents in their role as information
prosumer. The second period of the Web, called Web 2.0, has introduced new
paradigms of Web development and browser capabilities for interactive and dy-
namic content management. These concepts have further evolved and combined
with early distributed computing into cloud-based services and tools.
Generally, cloud computing is defined as a model for enabli ng ub iquit ous,
convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of conf igurable compu-
ting resources [ ]” (Mell & Grance, 2011). The most common cloud services are
Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) which provides computational infrastructure
such as storage and processing power, Platform as a Service (PaaS) offering plat-
forms hosting software, Software as a Service (SaaS) offers the actual applications
and services, and Backend as a Service (BaaS) allowing the outsourcing of the
server components for Web and mobile applications (Armbrust et al., 2010).
Cloud Service s in Education
Cloud services can provide great value and impacts in various learning and
teaching settings, from individual self-directed learning scenarios to group learn-
ing activities in MOOC environments. In particular SaaS, for Cloud-based Tools
(CBTs) or cloud-based Web applications and services, it can offer attractive op-
portunities for institutions, teachers and students. Internet users who grew up with
modern media consume and apply such tools and services for most activities in
their daily life.
CBTs provide several opportunities in modern learning settings and is scalable
at individual and massive online learning levels. There are four distinct types of
scenarios which can be concluded from the above:
Outsourcing of res ource s. Applications with high resources on computa-
tional power, memory load and storage capacity can be accessed outside the
learning environment, such as video streaming, simulations, and virtual worlds.
Scaling up resources. In the case of massive online learning experiences, it
is difficult to predict when learners will access the online materials. Cloud ser-
vices can guarantee scalability and elasticity by "on-demand" provisioning of
Accessibility. CBTs can provide tailored access to services, e.g. to mobile
devices, which might vary from responsive design to streaming services for
simulations and game-based environments.
Alternative learning experiences. A variety of existing CBTs and Web-
based services may provide alternative and engaging learning experiences for
learners and instructors.
Types of Cloud-based Tools and Services
A rigorous literature study and review of existing CBTs and Web services has
been conducted as part of the MOOC Maker project (MOOCMAKER, 2016). The
project has revealed a wide range of tools and services. The classification of
cloud-based applications discussed in the remainder of this section is an adapted
version of the original structure of the MOOC Maker project (MOOCMAKER,
Course design and authoring tools. This class of tools can support in-
structional designers, content authors and teachers in creating and maintaining
learning content. Example of the online tools included UDUTU1, EasyGenera-
tor2, and Elucidat3.
Content creati on tools. Unlike to above group of tools, this class of tools
support both teachers and students in the creative process. A number of tools
exist to support media, such as text, images, diagrams and charts, videos, ani-
mations, and presentations. Illustrative examples include Google Docs4, gliffy5,
and Emaze6.
Collaboration Tools. This group of applications enables students to work
together with their peers, communicate and share information with their peers
and instructors. Cloud-based services for synchronous and asynchronous com-
munication include WhatsApp7 and Facebook8. Examples for collaborative
content creation cover a broad range of application scenarios, such as mind
map creation and sharing by Mindmeister9 or storytelling by Storybird10. Illus-
4 (
6 (
trative examples for content sharing include social bookmarking such as Deli-
cious11, and for scientific papers and citations Mendeley12.
Hands-On Tools. The focus of ‘hands-on tools’ is for activities for active
engagement that can be administered individually or in a team. This includes
3D simulations and virtual reality, such as in physics TEALSim13 or in medi-
cine BODAVIS14, or supportive programming environments like REPL.IT15 or
Assessment and Feedback Tools. This group of tools comprises assess-
ment of knowledge and skills as well as provision of feedback and guidance.
This might be as simple as quizzes like Quizlet17, automated questions creator
(AQC) (Höfler, AL-Smadi, & Gütl, 2012), or managing the marking process
using ClassMarker18. Related to assignments is to check for plagiarism and ser-
vices such as Plagtracker19 can be used.
Knowledge and Auxiliary Services. For background information and
knowledge related to the learning content, a number of services are available
through the use of open content repositories and encyclopedias such as Global-
Geography20. In order to work on assignments, document repositories can be
used along with spell checkers or dictionaries like LEO21.
Learning Management and Supp ort Tools. This group of tools helps
teachers and students to keep track on the teaching and learning activities. This
includenews and time management such as TalenLMS22 l. Self-guided learning
support may also be included (Nussbaumer, Hillemann, Gütl, & Albert, 2015)
and motivational aspects can be designed using gamification such as GameEf-
Remixi ng of Cloud-base d tools and services
CBTs enable teachers and students with a high flexibility to support learning ac-
tivities by using a wide range of existing tools. The concept can give learners the
freedom to select preferred tools for a particular task. Although this would scale
up in terms of the number of users and the variety of tools available, it also intro-
duces a higher complexity in terms of integration of multiple tools. This includes
the configuration and management of roles and features according to the learning
tasks, and ownership of content and archiving of created deliverables.
For modern and engaging learning activities it is preferable to combine two or
more of the CBTs according to pedagogical objectives. Take as an example a task
in second language training where collaborative writing tools are enriched with
capabilities of spell checking and a thesaurus provided by other CBTs. Generally,
learning orchestration identifies the capacity to combine two or several tools and
adapt features to support specific learning goals. Such complex functionalities re-
quire an orchestration of CBTs on a granular level of tool interaction, data ex-
change and intervention. It also calls for unified user interfaces in the integrated
learning environment, abilities of assessment and role management (Hernandez
Rizzardini & Gütl, 2016)
Seamless integration of CBTs can also support the creation of Cloud Educa-
tional Environments (CEE), a powerful unified learning environment for enhanced
educational experiences. This requires full control over the educational experience
by role definitions and corresponding management of those roles, authority over
resources created, easy initial steps for the integration of a new tool, and configu-
ration for the use of CBTs to be adapted for specific learning tasks. Ideally, new
CBTs should be automatically integrated without any programming effort and be
used in the CEEs. (Hernández Rizzardini, 2015)
Generally in online education and in the context of CEE, the following tech-
nical aspects need to be considered (Hernández Rizzardini, 2015):
Authentication. This aspect includes user and group management and single
sign-on on all platforms and CBTs.
Content packaging. The reuse and exchange of learning assets is covered by
content packaging mechanism.
Data definition. This aspect focused on schema (in XML or any other for-
mat) for describing the content structure.
Data transport. This covers aspects how data is transferred among systems.
Launch and track. This addresses information how content and tools can be
launched and afterward tracked.
Metadata. This aspect deals with the data attributes and corresponding values
to describe, search, and retrieve learning content and services.
Over the years, many standards and specifications for educational interopera-
bility have become available covering one or more aspects listed above, and dis-
cussed in detail in Aroyo et al. (2006) and Hernández Rizzardini (2015). Learning
environments and middleware systems exist to support teachers, administrators,
practitioners to create and manage their own learning experiences on CBTs. Re-
sponsive Open Learning Environments (ROLE), a European project in the FP7
program, aims on a personal learning environment (PLE) by utlizing Web-based
tools and technologies. ROLE’s provided technical infrastructure which enables
learner groups to assemble widgets and services in PLEs (Hernández Rizzardini,
2015). Research has also been conducted and a middleware has been develop-
ment to integrate CBTs without programming effort by adopting recent technolo-
gies, such as JSON-LD and Hydra. (Hernández Rizzardini, 2015; Hernandez
Rizzardini, & Gütl, 2016).
Cloud-based Tools - Applications in Practice
Cloud-based tools are increasingly adopted in learning experiences, from formal
learning in school and at university settings to vocational training and life-long
learning. It can be found in a wide range of learning settings, from individual
learner’s usage to the scale of MOOC environments. (Anshari, Alas, & Guan,
2016; MOOCMAKER, 2016) In the remainder of this section, two examples are
The first example is based on the middleware introduced in the previous sec-
tion and covers one successful example how cloud-based tools can be integrated
and widely used for open learning settings in a MOOC environment (Hernández
Rizzardini, 2015). Galileo University built the virtual learning environment Tele-
scope on top of the .LRN learning platform24 specifically designed for MOOCs.
Additionally, the middleware for CBT integration has been used to offer various
types of tools for learning purposes. The Cloud Learning Activities Orchestration
(CLAO) system as reported in Rizzardini and Gütl (2016) enables teachers and
MOOC coordinators to select specific CBTs, manages features on fine-grained
levels and configures graphical appearance within the virtual learning environ-
ment Telescope. In a pilot study, the setup has been used to offer the Cloud-based
Tools for Learning MOOC. Learning activities has been designed as xMOOC
and includes the following CBTs: Google Docs25 as text editor, Cacoo26 for creat-
ing diagrams and flowcharts, Mindmeister27 as mind map tool, Slideshare28 for
sharing presentations, and Educaplay29 for assessment and feedback activities.
Two thousand and forty five users from Latin America enrolled in the course.
Findings revealed that the effort of integration of the middleware for CBT integra-
tion and CLOA system for CBT orchestration was low compared with the effort
on integrating on a tool by tool basis. In terms of performance, middleware and
integrated CBTs were able to scale up with more than 2000 students enrolled in
the course. The MOOCs course designer and teachers are able to set up the learn-
ing activities and attach CBTs and configure features and appearance in the virtual
learning environment.
In order to gain insides on motivational aspects and cognitive learning strate-
gies of the students, the Motivated Strategies for Learning Questionnaire (MSLQ)
was applied (Pintrich & García, 1993). Studentsattitudes on the value of using
CBTs show a high intrinsic and extrinsic goal orientation as well as task value.
The findings reveal a high control self-belief and self-efficacy for learning, and
the perceived level of anxiety in using CBTs was on a medium level. The meta-
cognitive self-regulation in the MOOC settings was perceived as high, and elabo-
ration and organization has been identified as the most relevant cognitive strategy
in the MOOC setting (Hernández Rizzardini, 2015).
The second example illustrates the integration of a hands-on tool into the edX
platform to be used as learning and assessment activity. A physics simulations of
electrostatic and electrodynamic phenomena, available in MIT’s TEALsim (Dori
& Belcher, 2005; TEALsim, 2017) were integrated in the MOOC platform. This
example illustrates the CBT application in a formal learning setting for university
students, but is also easily adaptable for learning experiences in school education.
Seven simulations have been ported using the Google Web Toolkit (GWT)
(Adam, Robert, Jason, and Tökke, 2013) and converted from the stand alone Java
application into a Web-based tools built on HTML and JavaScript to be used as
extra activities in a university course in Physics. Findings reveal that the hands-on
tool was hardly used by the students. In order to improve the situation, it was de-
cided to tightly integrate the tool in the learning activities to increase the applica-
tion of the tool for assessment activities. (Zeleznik, 2015)
EdX30 is one of the major MOOC platforms, which provides a variety of fea-
tures, functions and tools to create and run courses and analysis of user behavior.
It also provides a JavaScript-based interface jsinput(edX, 2017) to integrate ex-
ternal tools and exchange data between edX and the external tools. The TEALsim
simulations have been integrated in such a way that a set of exercises can be per-
sonalized and configured for each student. The corresponding set of data controls
the initialization of the tool for the hands-on experiences. Any interaction with the
simulation is captured and sent back to the edX platform. Data are used for learn-
ing analysis and feedback in the learning phase. This setup enables the designer of
a MOOC to specify a range of exercises for each of the students and also keep
track on their performance. It also defines specific assessment activities which can
be used to grade the performance of the students. This simulation and visualiza-
tion scale up for a high numbers of participants in a MOOC course (Zeleznik,
Research has indicated that learners are motivated and have positive attitudes
towards using CBTs. They expressed excitements when using a variety of tools as
they are exposed to interactive ways of learning. With the positive learning expe-
rience, learners gained improved performance in the course. A minor drawback is
the time to be familiar with several of the CBTs. To overcome this, training and
tutorial videos should be provided to guide the learners while they are using the
Embedding Online learning, MOOCs and Cloud-based
Tools Infrastructure in Schools
School stakeholders such as teachers and administrators who are embedding the
opportunities presented with MOOCs and CBTs must follow two key areas to plan
for a seamless implementation. The areas are (1) Networked and Technological
Infrastructure, (2) Security and Privacy and (3) Bring Your Own Devices (BYOD)
strategy. With the technology infrastructure, sufficient network bandwidth must
be available to support the transfer of a large amount of data devices, applications
and data on servers. Robust network infrastructure supporting data movement
from access device to data center is crucial in ensuring a seamless learning envi-
ronment. Internet usage will increase in the school environment from learning and
teaching activities, to administration functions. The bandwidth usually will virtu-
ally increase in every aspect of K-12 education and connectivity must be reliable.
High speed connection that supports fast response times are critical to ensure stu-
dents are connected as and when they need to use any applications via the internet.
Students and teachers alike expect the same rapid response when they connect to
MOOCs and CBTs. Likewise, they would require powerful laptops, tablets or
desktops. Single or same sign-on is a capability that facilitates all integration on
MOOCs or CBTs. Users will expect ease of access to multiple resources in the
cloud without having to use different logins and credentials.
In terms of security and privacy, schools are required to comply with regula-
tions governing the security of private information. As such computer and infor-
mation security is of particular concern to schools as they maintain confidential in-
formation about students ranging from academic records to health information.
Schools must derive Information communication technologies (ICT) principles
and governance. ICT Security compliance standards exist to support schools and
mitigate risks. Some of the principles include user authentication using proven
cryptographic methods, privacy capabilities including data encryption, data anon-
ymization and mobile location privacy, single sign-on login capability, access pro-
tection to prevent third parties from accessing data and secure cloud-based data
backup and storage.
BYOD programs will continue to have greater interest for school teachers and
administrators. As technology continues to advance, students will increasingly
want to use their devices at school. When BYOD are integrated in learning and
teaching in the classroom, BYOD can offer many opportunities. BYOD also bring
many challenges, in particular, the issue of equity and access. Students may not
own a smart device and if they do, the data usage may be restricted (Sharples, et
al., 2014). Schools may have to provide more re-charging power stations and con-
sider the school’s wireless infrastructure to when encouraging the use of BYOD in
classrooms. Schools will have to set clear guidelines to manage BYOD in the
classroom environment, for careful and appropriate use and equity issues
(Sharples, et al., 2014).
It is clear that the 21st century learning and teaching needs are very different to
those of previous centuries. In the 21st century classroom, in addition to imparting
knowledge and skills, the advancement of technologies have allowed teachers to
be facilitators of student learning. Teachers must supplement their traditional
classroom teaching with new teaching strategies to engage their students in learn-
ing using a variety of instructional methods following different pedagogical ap-
proaches aided with technology. Students can be active participant if the class-
room curriculum is designed in such a way that promote active engagement and
this can be done by incorporating modern technologies in the curriculum.
Teachers and administrators can upskill by enrolling in MOOCs that are rele-
vant and applicable to their role. Teachers also have greater flexibility of selecting
CBTs for specific learning activities and they have the opportunities to embed
CBTs in the classroom. Teachers can also design their courses with greater inter-
active and stimulating learning experiences. From the technical and organizational
point of view, online learning, MOOCs, CBTs are highly scalable and widely ac-
cessible. Resources and applications can be accessed and used without a high pay-
load. As discussed in this chapter, technology and software tools play a big role in
developing of learning activities for students in the modern-day classroom set-
tings. With the effective use of technology and services such as CBTs and
MOOCs, students can learn 21st century skills of collaboration, creativity, critical
thinking and problem solving (Crockett, L., 2016). Advancement of technologies
offer teachers with have greater teaching methods and opportunities in the class-
room. Some of the characteristics and features that teachers play in the 21st centu-
ry with use of the technologies include the following:
Student-centred: With this, teachers are focused on each student’s needs
and with technology, students will play an active role in their learning with
teachers facilitating in the classroom (Crockett, L., 2016)
Computing devices: Computing facilities and BYOD are readily available
in the 21st century learning. With the availabilities of cloud-based services
and other resources such as MOOCs, teachers are able to create more en-
gaging learning activities.
Active learning: Students are encourages to be active learners. With the
availability of engaging learning activities, students are able to work inde-
pendently or work collaboratively in teams. This will give students the
ability to master a skill at their own pace or work enquire and research to-
gether with team mates.
Collaborative learning: With computing devices, students will be able to
work in group projects and solve problems in groups (Rotherham, A &
Willingham, D., 2009). With their smart devices, students are also able to
work outside of classroom.
Connect: Students are able to connect with those students who would like
to work on the same topic, and perhaps those who are able to work together
given time constraints.
Adaptive learning: As students are at different stages of learning teachers
may be able to adapt the learning according to the student’s abilities. There
exist a variety of software tools that will enhance the learning of their stu-
dents (Rotherham, A & Willingham, D., 2009; Palmer, T. 2015).
Innovate: Teachers can continue to innovate and try new ways to teach and
engage their students. In addition to the available tools, services and re-
sources for formal learning, teachers may also teach using social media and
incorporate outside of classroom teaching.
Despite the great potential and advantages outlined above, MOOCs and CBTs
are maintained and upgraded automatically by third parties, and a major drawback
resides with the sustainability of the courses and tools (Rotherham, A & Willing-
ham, D., 2009). Administrators must have strategies, policies and guidelines to
manage the networked and wireless technologies, the implementation of BYOD,
security, privacy, and technology equitable access to all students. Of greater im-
portance is that administrators and school leaders must provide professional de-
velopment to teachers and to communicate with parents of the expectations with
the use of technologies and educational materials.
There are also privacy and security issues related to MOOCs and CBT-based
environment. Tools and data are managed and connected external to educational
institutions, with many scenarios where data centres are located abroad or dis-
persed over several countries. Data security standards and policies may differ and
may not comply with the institutions’ own standards. Likewise, depending on
where the data centres or hosting platforms are located, the privacy and security
may not comply with the countries’ standards. It is always advisable to check
where data should be stored from the standpoint of privacy as some data could be
subject to disclosure under different countries acts. Privacy and sensitive issues on
students’ identities and insights on students’ activities must be protected and use
with care. Security issues may include the injection of malicious software on cli-
ent PCs, exposing students to offensive content or advertisements, or the Denial of
Service Attack (DDoS) may affect services with extended down time. Related to
this are also quality of service (QoS) aspects and issues, which may cause tempo-
rarily problems accessing the services (Shahriar, Haddad, Lebron, & Lupu, 2016;
Jones & Regner, 2016; Yan, Yu, Gong, & Li, 2016).
This chapter has been partly supported by the MOOC Maker Project and find-
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Online learning, in particular Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) and the use
of Cloud-based Tools are on the increase. This chapter takes a closer look at op-
portunities and possibilities that might be provided to K-12 education with these
emerging tools. In particular, the chapter provides an overview of the changes
with the learning and teaching landscape with the introduction of disruptive tech-
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ogies, tools and services.
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This contribution shares experiences with three digital tools used to engage students in Particle Technology courses at Graz University of Technology: (i) Perusall is a digital platform that allows students to collaboratively annotate textbooks, papers, and other similar classroom reading assignments, (ii) Feedbackr is a student-response system that focuses on the fast collection of student feedback with features for student-teacher interaction, and (iii) TeachCenter is a classical Moodle-based learning environment provided by Graz University of Technology. These tools were used to help teach various Particle Technology (PT) courses at Graz University of Technology during the past two years. The three primary goals in using these digital tools were (i) to enhance student learning, (ii) improve student engagement in the classroom, and (iii) to obtain rapid feedback regarding student understanding of the course materials. For all courses, Perusall was used to assign reading materials, which were primarily journal articles that complemented the course topics. Feedbackr was used at multiple occasions during face-to-face units, primarily to identify weak spots in the student’s perception of a certain topic. TeachCenter was used as the central hub for distributing teaching materials, and hosted sets of multiple-choice and calculated question-type assignments for non-graded assignments. These assignments should, in addition to a large question catalogue, stimulate self-assessment during the semester. This concept paper will highlight the advantages and drawbacks of the three different digital tools, and conclude with best-practice recommendations for classroom and course implementation.
With the uprising of new media industry, homework of students majored in mass media becomes increasingly diversified. To better deal with the multi-media homework processing demand and achieve smoother communication between mass media teachers and students in term of latter’s homework, this system makes some improvement to the existing homework review system that focuses on text work, including introduction of video/image homework processing and multi-media work exchange and sharing. An online multi-media homework management system is designed here on the basis of Aliyun platform. The system featuring comprehensive and powerful functions can provide better assistance for such teaching activities as lecturing of teachers and students engaged in mass media industry.
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The Maker Movement or do-it-yourself culture is a concept uses novel, mostly via digital applications and tools to emphasize the learning- through-doing in the social environment. This culture inspires teachers through learning by construction and is seen as an important driver for education. In this chapter, we introduce the Maker Movement and describe how it contributes to the STEM education. The authors recite their experience through the project “Maker Days for Kids” which after that, was served as a fundamental base for a following Massive Open Online Course (MOOC). This online course brought some of the emerging technologies together with an appropriate didactical pro- ject about “Making activities for classrooms” to the public. It can be concluded that the MOOC assists in fostering the STEM education by rapidly transferring knowledge to the involved teachers.
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Wearable devices, such as smart glasses, are nowadays easily available on the market; therefore, these devices could be used to evaluate more and more use cases in educational domain. After a short introduction to smart glasses functionality, features and user interaction techniques, several use cases are defined and described. To integrate smart glasses into the educational domain, specialized information systems and infrastructure is necessary. A basic concept of a suitable information system is defined and explained by a sample use case. The main advantage of using smart glasses in educational domain is that users can interact with the device hands-free therefore (fine motor skills) tasks can be performed while receiving visual and vocal support simultaneously. Additionally the teacher/observer can evaluate the performance remotely. Wearable devices become better available and cheaper, but should only be used in suitable use cases where the learning experience could be improved.
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Distance learning—that is, providing education to students who are separated by distance and in which the pedagogical material is planned and prepared by educational institutions—is a topic of regular interest in the popular and business press. In particular, MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses), which are open-access online courses that allow for unlimited participation, as well as SPOCs (Small Private Online Courses), are said to have revolutionized universities and the corporate education landscape. In this article we provide a nuanced analysis of the phenomenon of online distance learning. We first provide an overview of its historical evolution, and subsequently define and classify key concepts. We further discuss in detail the optimal target group in terms of participating students and teaching professors and propose corresponding frameworks for driving intrinsic student motivation and for choosing a successful online teacher. We also outline the benefits that institutions can achieve by offering online distance learning. Finally, we speak about the specific connection between online distance learning and social media by focusing on the difference between MOOCs based on traditional lecture formats (xMOOCs) and connectivist cMOOCs.
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This paper presents a conceptual approach and a Web-based service that aim at supporting self-regulated learning in virtual environments. The conceptual approach consists of four components, which are (a) a self-regulated learning model for supporting a learner-centred learning process, (b) a psychological model for facilitating competence-based personalisation and knowledge assessment, (c) an open learner model approach for visual interaction and feedback, and (d) a learning analytics approach for capturing relevant learner information required by the other components. The Web-based service provides a technical implementation of the conceptual approach, as well as a linkage to existing virtual environments used for learning purposes. The approach and service have been evaluated in user studies in university courses on computer science to demonstrate the usefulness of the overall approach and to get an understanding of some limitations.
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Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) hold the potential to open up educational opportunities to a global audience. However, evidence suggests that only a small proportion of MOOC participants go on to complete their courses and relatively little is understood about the MOOC design and implementation factors that influence retention. This paper reports a survey study of 379 participants enrolled at university in Cairo who were encouraged to take a MOOC of their own choice as part of their development. 122 participants (32.2%) went onto to complete an entire course. There were no significant differences in completion rates by gender, level of study (undergraduate or postgraduate) or MOOC platform. A post-MOOC survey of students' perceptions found that MOOC Course Content was a significant predictor of MOOC retention, with the relationship mediated by the effect of content on the Perceived Effectiveness of the course. Interaction with the instructor of the MOOC was also found to be significant predictor of MOOC retention. Overall these constructs explained 79% of the variance in MOOC retention.
Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are commonly hosted as web servers for learners worldwide to access education and learning materials at low cost. Many of the well-known MOOCs have adopted open source software and database technologies and frequently operate within cloud environments. It is likely that the well-known software security vulnerabilities may manifest to MOOC-based applications. Unfortunately, few studies have identified a set of common vulnerabilities applicable to MOOC-based applications. This paper1 presents an exploratory study of potential security vulnerabilities and challenges for MOOC platforms, and it provide some guidelines and suggestions to mitigate these concerns. This study helps practitioners (educators and developers) to adopt MOOC applications while considering potential vulnerabilities and be prepared to deal with these risks.
Conference Paper
New learning tools, media and technologies, such as computer games, mobile devices, web services and social media, have improved the way learners learn and interact to acquire knowledge and skills. Recent generation of students entering universities known as Generation NeXT are digital natives who expect information to be available at any time and from anywhere. It is also well-known that this new generation of learners takes information in smaller portions and has shorter attention span. Educators are left to brace with the challenge of ensuring that they are able to use digital media and technologies when designing learning materials. In addition, educators must also work on capturing the attention of the new generation of learners. As such, educators are applying newer pedagogies to engage and motivate students with learning activities and interactions. This paper focuses specifically on learning engagement approaches in information sciences subjects. Three showcases from three universities in two countries with a variety of learning activities and engagements are illustrated. A generalized learning engagement model comprising of six active learning elements of (1) learning resources, (2) learning activities, (3) personalized learning, (4) active communication and collaboration, (5) feedback and reflection learning, and (6) student support is described. The results from the 3 cases showed that most of the active learning elements were addressed in the courses. The students found the learning activities within the courses were carefully orchestrated and thus gave them positive learning experiences.
A wide range of innovative Web 2.0 tools can be used for STEM education; however, learning orchestration issues arise in terms of management, adaption, and intervention. These issues can be solved through the manipulation of the tools' Web application programming interfaces (APIs) in order to orchestrate the learning experience. In this chapter, the authors present a learning platform that is capable of orchestrating learning activities through Web interoperability with Web 2.0 tools. This interoperability is realized through advanced Semantic Web technologies such as JSON-LD and Hydra, and a specialized architecture to automatically recognize, process, and use the tools' Web APIs. Finally, an evaluation of the architecture in a Massive Open Online Course is presented which reveals satisfactory usability and emotional evaluation results.
Utilizing online learning resources (OLR) from multi channels in learning activities promise extended benefits from traditional based learning-centred to a collaborative based learning-centred that emphasizes pervasive learning anywhere and anytime. While compiling big data, cloud computing, and semantic web into OLR offer a broader spectrum of pervasive knowledge acquisition to enrich users’ experience in learning. In conventional learning practices, a student is perceived as a recipient of information and knowledge. However, nowadays students are empowered to involve in learning processes that play an active role in creating, extracting, and improving OLR collaborative learning platform and knowledge sharing as well as distributing. Researchers have employed contents analysis for reviewing literatures in peer reviewed journals and interviews with the teachers who utilize OLR. In fact, researchers propose pervasive knowledge can address the need of integrating technologies like cloud computing, big data,Web 2.0, and SemanticWeb. Pervasive knowledge redefines value added, variety, volume, and velocity of OLR, which is flexible in terms of resources adoption, knowledge acquisition, and technological implementation.
Distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks in cloud computing environments are growing due to the essential characteristics of cloud computing. With recent advances in software-defined networking (SDN), SDN-based cloud brings us new chances to defeat DDoS attacks in cloud computing environments. Nevertheless, there is a contradictory relationship between SDN and DDoS attacks. On one hand, the capabilities of SDN, including software-based traffic analysis, centralized control, global view of the network, dynamic updating of forwarding rules, make it easier to detect and react to DDoS attacks. On the other hand, the security of SDN itself remains to be addressed, and potential DDoS vulnerabilities exist across SDN platforms. In this paper, we discuss the new trends and characteristics of DDoS attacks in cloud computing, and provide a comprehensive survey of defense mechanisms against DDoS attacks using SDN. In addition, we review the studies about launching DDoS attacks on SDN, as well as the methods against DDoS attacks in SDN. To the best of our knowledge, the contradictory relationship between SDN and DDoS attacks has not been well addressed in previous works. This work can help to understand how to make full use of SDN's advantages to defeat DDoS attacks in cloud computing environments and how to prevent SDN itself from becoming a victim of DDoS attacks, which are important for the smooth evolution of SDN-based cloud without the distraction of DDoS attacks.