Our framework

At OpenupEd we developed a framework of common features for our MOOCs that puts you, the learner, at the center:

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  1. Learner-centred
  2. Openness to learners
  3. Digital openness
  4. Independent learning
  5. Media-supported interaction
  6. Recognition options
  7. Quality focus
  8. Spectrum of diversity

The OpenupEd partners decided that these features are most relevant  for MOOCs in their contributions to opening up education. These features are explained in more detail in the next articles.

The framework is not meant to be a straitjacket, but to give guidance for improving the quality of our MOOC offer. Given that flexibility, some institutions will conform more than others. Partner institutions, however, should be serious in implementing those features. They need to outline their process towards opening up education.

It is against this background that OpenupEd offers MOOCs to everybody, in a flexible way that meets the needs of today’s learners in an increasingly complex world. We apply an international Quality label for our MOOCs tailored to both e-learning and open education, incorporating these eight features.

In addition with these features, we embrace the opportunities MOOCs offer for the society. I.e., to secure that MOOCs indeed serve fundamental values for education in our societies.

You as a learner are facilitated with appropriate incentives to make progress and to succeed in your learning efforts, next to removing barriers both at the entry into learning and along the learning path.

Openness to learners

As stated earlier, Massive Open Online Courses should be designed as open as possible

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in such a way that all unnecessary barriers to learning are removed, both at the entry into learning and along the learning path. We distinguish the following dimensions:

freeofcharge Free of charge: you have a full course experience free-of-charge. For additional services, like personal tutoring or doing a formal exam for obtaining a ECTS certificate, there will be some cost involved.

freeadmittance2 Free admittance: we apply an open entry policy. I.e. anyone can basically participate regardless of prior education; you don’t need diplomas to participate in a course. However, that doesn’t imply that MOOCs are only offered at novice level.
All MOOCs require some basic skills of ict and language skills by definition. And there are courses that require extensive prior knowledge and skills. But these knowledge and skills are not tested beforehand, nor are any formal qualification needed to enter the course.

Icon open accessibility Open Accessibility: course can always be accessed by anyone anywhere as long as they have an internet connection.

anywhere-online Learn anywhere online: we apply the freedom of place: you can study at home, at work, at a library, virtual classroom, on a train or a plane, abroad, on a boat etc.

anytime Start anytime: you can begin a course at any point during the year and study at any time.

Icon self paced Self-paced: you can basically determine your own pace and schedule.
We emphasise that self-paced MOOCs will need to be finished with some kind of recognition and consequently have an end date (set by you as learner).

12diflanguages OpenupEd cherishes diversity in languages and cultures, a spectrum of approaches and contexts, accounting for variety and profiling. We see diversity as one of the key advantages of new learning technologies. We are open to all people : the population is very varied, comprises all ages and has a wide range of contexts.

Icon open programming Open programming:  the programmes involve certain freedoms as regards their content and order; you can take and if necessary combine modules/courses as you wish; there are partial programmes and complete open programmes

A 100% score on all dimensions is very rare. Most of them, however, do apply to the OpenupEd courses. Exceptions are the freedom of time and the freedom of pace for those courses that have a fixed starting date and a set schedule.

In a broader perspective this feature stresses the importance to be open to learners' needs. I.e. education should be affordable, rewarding, good quality, feasible, enjoyable, but also with freedom of time / pace / place, open entry, open programming, credentialing, bridge between formal and informal learning, lifelong learning, .... 

Digital openness

Digital openness has various domains to which it can relate: open source (for software), open access (for scientific output),  open contentopen educational resources (for learning materials).

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A central issue to all these forms of digital openness, in contrast to standard copyright, is that it is free available and has an open license. For open content and open educational resources Creative Commons has developed a system of open licenses which are fit to different circumstances and which are meanwhile commonly applied.

freeofcharge Free of charge: you have a full course experience free-of-charge.

openreuse Open licence: (re-)use it. You have the rights to reuse, revise, remix, and redistribute content or courses. We see open licence as an important business driver for promoting skills, enhancing knowledge transfer and increasing the pace of innovation.

At OpenupEd we aim to be in these 5R’ domains of the digitally open world as much as possible, although, for example, still the use of open source software for MOOC platforms is not as widespread as you would wish. As a rule the OpenupEd courses should be openly licensed, for example CC BY or CC BY SA. If this is not yet the case for a particular course, we expect an intention to change that.


MOOCs should be designed such that all unnecessary barriers to learning are removed, while aiming to provide students with a reasonable chance of success in an education.

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But that goes beyond offering a course freely online, even if they are in the local language. In open education we should also have an learner centered approach. I.e. we should focus more on innovations in open pedagogical thinking and less on technology and platforms.

Courses should aid students to construct their own learning from a rich environment, and to share and communicate it with others; they should not simply focus on the transmission of content knowledge to the student.

Openness in education is also about the learned centred activities, which are carefully designed by the teaching staff. Here, the core question is "how does good learning proceed as a process" in a potentially rich environment.

Independent learning

In higher education students usually are guided throughout the curriculum by teaching staff in classrooms, by books and readers and in virtual learning environments. 

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  1. A MOOC, however, should provide high quality materials and a rich learning environment to enable an independent learner to progress through self-study.

    support2 Built-in support & tutoring. Since independent learning is the ‘holy grail’ of higher education, built-in guidance is needed to optimize the learning process and to support you for learning on your own. As such, you will become a more independent learner and will need less guidance than in the first courses. Independent learning is also essential to take you forward in your further academic or professional development in life. Personal tutoring is optionally available with some courses.

    onlineresources2 The best (online) resources. Independent is not about learning by yourself. OpenupEd course materials make the best use of online affordances (interactivity, communication, collaboration) as well as rich media (video and audio) to engage you in your learning.

Media-supported interaction

There is nothing wrong with reading a text online or watching a lecture on video. But learning can be more engaging and rewarding.

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Therefore we aim that course materials should make use of online affordances (interactivity, communication, collaboration) as well as rich media (video and audio) to engage you and your fellow students in your learning.

Recognition options

Successful course completion should be recognised as an educational achievement. 

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OpenupEd partners offer a full/complete course experience including informal recognition options for free. Moreover, MOOC participants should be offered a pathway to formal higher education and as such should also be offered the possibility to a formal credit (to be paid for).

certificate Always a badge and/or certificate. I.e. you have the opportunity to get a badge or an informal certificate of course completion for free (as evidence of completion). 

Icon ECTS In addition, the majority of OpenupEd MOOCs provide the possibility to obtain a formal certificate, i.e. official credits that can count towards obtaining a degree, i.e. ECTS (European Credit Transfer and accumulation System). Those formal certificates require some costs, depending on the offering institution. 

Icon full course experience Full Course Experience: We define MOOCs as a complete course experience including:

      • educational content
      • facilitation interaction among peers (including some but limited interaction with academic staff)
      • activities/tasks, tests, including feedback
      • some kind of (nonformal) recognition options
      • a study guide / syllabus

The total study time of a MOOC is minimal 1 ECTS (typically between 1 and 4 ECTS).

Quality focus

A high quality course is essential for an optimal chance of study success. 

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OpenupEd aims to be a distinct quality brand embracing a wide diversity of (institutional) approaches to open up education via the use of MOOCs. As a consequence, OpenupEd partners agreed that the quality process should be one that is tailored to both e-learning and open education.

The quality of our MOOCs is assured on at least three levels.

qualitygaranteed Quality assured: Every OpenupEd partner has an internal Quality Assurance system in place to approve a MOOC and apply the OpenupEd Quality Label.

Icon accredited Accredited: Next some OpenupEd MOOCs are also part of an accredited curriculum and as such (part of) the course is subject to the national quality system (e.g. national accreditation organisation).

Icon EFQ level EFQ level: For all courses the EQF level is indicated.

In short: OpenupEd provides you with real opportunities to participate in higher education and provides quality learning opportunities to all.

Spectrum of diversity

OpenupEd supports diversity: a course should be inclusive and accessible to the wide diversity of citizens.

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In short: it should appeal to everyone. As stated earlier it’s all about putting the learner at the center.

12diflanguagesDiversity: OpenupEd cherish diversity in languages and cultures, a spectrum of approaches and contexts, accounting for variety and profiling. We see diversity as one of the key advantages of new learning technologies. OpenupEd offers courses in 14 languages.

Next we many OpenupEd MOOCs are using local case studies close to your daily experiences. In addition we embrace the diversity in (institutional) approaches to open up education using MOOCs.

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