A strategic response to MOOCs: How one European university is approaching the challenge


  • Mark Brown Dublin City University
  • Eamon Costello
  • Enda Donlon
  • Mairead Nic Giolla-Mhichil




Higher Education, Open Learning, MOOCs, Strategic Drivers, Europe,


This paper briefly outlines some of the macro level claims, counter-claims and unresolved debates surrounding the rapid growth of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) in Higher Education. It then reports insights, experiences and perceptions of those charged with developing a strategic institutional response to the challenges and opportunities presented by the MOOC movement framed within a wider European context. A description of the key drivers, strategic deliberations and major decision points at Dublin City University (DCU) is provided along with brief analysis of the advantages and disadvantages of a range of MOOC options set against an increasingly complex and rapidly evolving technology-enhanced learning terrain. In reflecting on this micro level experience, informed by lessons from the burgeoning literature on MOOCs, the paper aims to demonstrate the value of aligning key decisions with well-defined institutional drivers, which are used to help compare and contrast the affordances of different MOOC platforms. Finally, a number of strategic questions are presented that may help guide future decisions about the adoption of MOOCs by other institutions. 

Author Biography

Mark Brown, Dublin City University

Professor Mark Brown is Director of the National Institute for Digital Learning (NIDL) based at Dublin City University (DCU). Before taking up this position and Ireland’s first Chair in Digital Learning in February of 2014, Mark was previously Director of the National Centre for Teaching and Learning at Massey University in New Zealand. At Massey he was also Director of the Distance Education and Learning Futures Alliance (DELFA).

Over the last decade Mark has played key leadership roles in the implementation of several major university-wide digital learning and teaching initiatives, including the enterprise wide deployment of Moodle, the original design and development of the Mahara e-portfolio system, and the university-wide implementation of a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) platform [Open2Study].

Professor Brown’s main research interests are in Higher Education and in particular the areas of policy development, the societal benefits of university-level education, teaching and learning development, online, blended and digital learning, social media, student success and engagement, and the nature of the student learning experience. Mark serves on several international journal editorial boards and has published extensively in the areas of online, blended and digital learning. In total, Mark has produced overly 300 scholarly publications and presentations.

Mark was President of the New Zealand Association for Open, Flexible and Distance Learning (DEANZ) prior to his arrival at DCU, and was until recently Treasurer and an executive committee member of the Australasian Society for Computers in Learning in Tertiary Education (ascilite). Ascilite is the peak professional body for digital learning in Australia and New Zealand. Mark is a recipient of a National Award for Sustained Excellence in Tertiary Teaching and remains a member of the New Zealand Academy of Tertiary Teaching Excellence. 



How to Cite

Brown, M., Costello, E., Donlon, E., & Nic Giolla-Mhichil, M. (2015). A strategic response to MOOCs: How one European university is approaching the challenge. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 16(6). https://doi.org/10.19173/irrodl.v16i6.2151